Swedish watches and Danish charms: How Norbreeze Group sells Scandi chic
After recently securing the exclusive distribution rights for Swedish watch brand Daniel Wellington in Singapore and Malaysia through its subsidiary, Cocomi, Asian retail specialist Norbreeze Group is on an upward trajectory and looking to drive further growth by expanding to new markets in the region. “We have certainly come out of the pandemic era in a much stronger position. We have doubled our turnover, and our bottom line has performed much better than how it was in 2019,” Anders
rs Peter Juel Sauerberg, CEO and co-founder of Norbreeze Group, told Inside Retail.
The company has gone through quite a lot in the past few years. All the uncertainties in the global economy, as well as the hangover from the pandemic, have made operations tricky in a climate dominated by inflationary pressures and rising costs across the board. But Sauerberg chooses to view this backdrop as an opportunity, rather than a challenge.
“As Winston Churchill once said, never let a good crisis go to waste. We have been spending a lot of time soul searching and evaluating what we can do better so that we can strengthen our operations and come out on a stronger footing,” he said.
2020 was a difficult year for the group as it had to contend with retail operations being shuttered due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The group focused on strengthening its relationships with stakeholders and customers during this period with an online push.
“We expect 2022 to be a year with quite linear growth, with at least a 20 per cent increase in sales. 2021 was already 40 per cent more than the previous year. So we are on course to doubling our targets this year,” Sauerberg said.
According to Sauerberg, the overall vision of Norbreeze Group is to be the leading omnichannel retailer of accessible luxury watches and jewellery in the Asian region.
It has three subsidiaries, namely Norbreeze Collective Asia, which oversees the Pandora brand for Indochina, Cocomi, which is a distribution and retail arm that represents 12 watch brands in Southeast Asia, and August Berg, a Danish watchmaker.
The acquisition of Daniel Wellington in Singapore and Malaysia is part of Cocomi’s business strategy through 2025. Earlier this year, it added Calvin Klein watches and jewellery to its portfolio, which includes Coach, Boss, Hugo, Lacoste and Tommy Hilfiger.
Going forward, it will manage 13 physical stores for the Daniel Wellington brand – nine in Malaysia and four in Singapore – and oversee the watch label’s regional expansion.
“Our expansion will focus on the key markets of Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. We see ourselves doubling down on Vietnam, where we have already seen significant growth for the group thus far. A direct retail presence in Vietnam and in the future in China is also on the cards,” Sauerberg said, though he did not specify for which brands.
So far, he said the group has been unaffected by the supply chain bottlenecks that seem to be plaguing businesses the world over. Shipping costs are a quarter of what they used to be a year ago, and he is looking at 2023 with cautious optimism.
“We don’t really see a big concern around the supply chain issue for the group. We are seeing local demand in Asia having the potential to support growth in 2023. The risk profile for the Asian region is also improving, and there is enough liquidity in the markets as well,” Sauerberg added.
He sees a lot of potential in the Indian market, with growth hovering around the 6 per cent mark, while he expects China’s market to stabilise around the 4 per cent mark. This would be a major driver for the region.
“Asia is in much better shape than the US or Europe, as we go forward to 2023. So, we are very happy with our focus on Asia, and we are going to double down on our focus for the region,” he said.
Things are picking up
The group is poised to hire more retail staff for its operations in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. Sauerberg expects wages to continue to increase in the region, as well as rental costs. But while operations may get costlier, the potential in Asia is huge.
“Take Vietnam for example. From around 35 million middle-class customers, by 2030, it is projected that there will be around 56 million middle-class shoppers, and that is a considerable increase and huge potential for brands in that region,” he said.
Consumers are now looking for brands with clear, authentic values and meaningful purchases.
“Authenticity and honest interactions are extremely important to Gen Z, both online and offline. Using the right platforms according to the brand positioning and the market we are entering is key,” he added.
The group is intent on optimising the mobile experience for Gen Z customers. Micro-influencer partnerships are also key in this area as issues around social responsibility resonate with this target group.
Sauerberg said the group will continue to focus on its customers, with an unrelenting focus on technology, digitisation and exploring growth opportunities both locally and regionally in key Southeast Asian markets.
“One of the essential factors we have incorporated into our management strategy has been decentralisation. We are making it easier for divisions within our company to make choices and decisions faster by empowering them with the capabilities to do so,” he stated.
Ultimately, he feels that if all the personnel within the company are aligned to a central goal, and are sufficiently aware about what needs to be done, success is achievable.
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