In the late nineties, whilst in one of my former roles as a leader in an IT and Communications company, I arranged for a speaker to address my business unit on the emerging topic of the ‘world wide web’. Although much of the content of that presentation dwelled on both the technology and terminology – www, Arpanet, internet, intranet, TCP/IP, HTTP and HTML – we were introduced to the new concepts of web browsing tools such as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and search engines, particularly a new name called Google. The presenter raised the opportunity of shopping using the internet (I don’t think the term ‘online’ was coined at that point) and at the end of the presentation I asked the audience if anyone had actually made a purchase on the web. No one, apart from the presenter put their hand up. For some reason I made the bold prediction that within a year everyone in the room would have made an ‘online’ purchase, within 10 years everyone would be a regular internet shopper and within 20 years we would all be buying more on the internet than in actual shops.

We’re all now very much aware of the online revolution but one snippet of information caught my attention in the recent round of retailers publishing their Christmas trading figures. The CEO of John Lewis reported a significant growth in online orders of 21.4% with 40% of all of their orders now being accounted for online. He predicted that within 2 years their online sales would exceed their in-store sales.

Sales of some products – most famously books and CDs with Amazon – were natural leaders in online sales and were quick to establish the trend in online shopping, whilst other products have lagged behind a little in the online revolution. One of the laggards has been watch sales but here too online sales are beginning to outstrip in-store retailing, whether it's with online brand aggregators, such as Watchshop, or specialist online micro brands like my own.

Online watch sales have increased significantly in the last few years with now over 20% of all sales transacted on the web. But we know that there is some reticence by some consumers to buy a watch Online because you don't always have the benefit of trying it for size, weight and feel and, sometimes, the sheer enjoyment of buying a watch in a retail store is taken away.

But there's some harsh economics about that retail experience. Firstly, bricks and mortar retailers enjoy margins of between 50% and 75% of the price you pay. Whether it's the posh window displays, plush surroundings and high quality cabinets, the leather couch you're sitting on, or even the champagne you're sipping as you make your choice; all of that 'experience' comes with a cost. Not forgetting the high hidden costs of property leases, premium advertising and the significant cost of endorsement by famous sports people or celebrities.  There's only one person who pays for all of that - the customer. It’s been estimated that many watches bought in a retail store actually cost as little as between 3% and 9% of the price you pay to make.

At ETIQUS, by offering our timepieces Online, cutting out the retail margin and the other unnecessary costs we are able to offer a great quality timepiece at a very competitive price.

We try our best to provide size and weight information to help you choose the right specification and most importantly we offer a full 14 day customer satisfaction period where you can return any timepiece for an exchange or a full refund.

We’ve worked very hard to establish our business to support the customer journey from the very first time they discover the ETIQUS website through the purchase and fulfilment process and with the after sales service our customers receive. That investment seems to be paying off judging by the high customer satisfaction levels and fantastic reviews we are receiving.

So when it comes to ‘Retail or Etail’ by all means ‘pay your money and take your choice’ but I hope that you can be reassured that choosing an ETIQUS timepiece is simply about choosing a quality affordable product without wasting your hard earned cash on the costs of in-store frippery.

Gary Butler