E. Gluck doubles down with WITHit to tap wearable accessories potential

By Luke Barras-hill |

Nylon strap for FitBit Charge 3 + 4.

Earlier this year, US-based watch manufacturer E. Gluck Corporation revealed a tie-up with WITHit in an alliance between two companies with similar business philosophies.

In the build-up to the inaugural Travel Retail Consumer Forum (20-22 September), where E. Gluck Corporation and several of its brands will be exhibiting, the company shares the WITHit journey to date and discusses what’s next for the brand in travel retail.

“The WITHit partnership was really a marriage of two philosophically similar companies,” said Robertaccio. “As explained to me by our CEO, Barbara Gluck Weichselbaum, it was similar to the dating process: all the players got to know each other and the more time that was spent together the more it became evident how complementary the two companies were.”

The foundations of any partnership determines its course and the words of Rob Robertaccio, Senior Vice President Global & Travel Retail Sales at E. Gluck Corporation symbolises, ostensibly, the bond between E. Gluck and WITHit.

Accessory case for Apple AirPods Pro.

A ‘MONUMENTAL’ MOVE 

In the case of E. Gluck, the New York-based watch company has seen its fair share of milestones over the more than 65 years it has been in business.

Today it possesses a portfolio of brands that includes Anne Klein, Torgoen, Armitron and Vince Camuto.

Over the years, E. Gluck has successfully launched a range of brands into the competitive fashion watch sector and is proud to hold the fashion watch licence for Anne Klein longer than (to its own knowledge) any other licensing deal in the industry.

However, it is – certainly ostensibly – a different scenario in the case of WITHit, a brand that offers fashionable straps, bracelets and protective covers for smart watches and wireless earbuds for tech juggernauts such as Apple, FitBit and Samsung.

“The WITHit partnership is somewhat monumental for us, as it takes us outside the traditional fashion watch business for the first time,” explained Robertaccio.

“It opens us up to a whole world of new opportunities and retail partners. We lost our founder, Eugen Gluck, or more fondly, Mr Gluck as he was known in the industry, almost two years ago. He left us with very big shoes to fill but we think he would agree and be very excited for the direction that we are taking the company.”

That divergence in direction, with some gusto, has its obvious roots. The decimation of operating revenues in travel and retail quarters caused by Covid-19 triggered a response for G. Gluck, as has been the case for other companies.

“Diversification was definitely appealing to us,” noted Robertaccio. “At the same time, it is something that had been on our minds for a while and the advent of Covid-19 was more of a catalyst for us to move forward.

“The second factor is more around the actual product that WITHit markets. It is no secret that smart watches and fitness trackers have increased their market share in the wrist accessory category.

“And while we believe that this shift will ultimately lead to an increase in the popularity of wrist accessories, we thought that adding this entrenched wearable tech accessories company to our portfolio was an important strategic decision.

“Early on we determined that the world of wearables, like smart watches and fitness trackers, was destined to be dominated by the powerful technology companies, like Apple and Google, and going toe-to-toe with them would be a quick lesson in futility.

“So, instead, we doubled down on our unique talent to deliver fashion and value as an add on accessory to this growing category of product.”

E. Gluck views exponential growth in the wearable devices category over the coming years. 

WEARABLES ACCESSORIES: UNTAPPED POTENTIAL

In fact, Robertaccio is under no illusion as to the scale of the potential opportunity that exists for wearable accessories across travel retail. This is something he discusses candidly in a video interview available, in the forthcoming TRBusiness October e-zine [stay close to TRBusiness for more – Ed].

“Our research shows that, as of 2020, there are over 500 million wearable devices currently in use,” he told TRBusiness.com.

“The trend is for that number to grow by 20% year over year for the next six years. That is an incredible amount of consumers and while we do not know exactly how many travellers wear smart watches, we know that it is quite significant and allows us to deduce that this category will be hugely successful in the duty free and travel retail segment.”

More broadly, travel retail as an avenue for business opportunity is an idea that continues to percolate for E. Gluck Corporation.

“The best part of this category is that it can live in so many different channels,” enthused Robertaccio. “For example, with watches, this product can live in our current locations, but can also be expanded out into retail concepts that focus on electronics.

“And our offering goes beyond smart watch bands. One of the fastest-growing products that we sell are cases for AirPods. We expect that this could be a business all to itself if you think about how many people you see with those little white posts coming from their ears as you walk through a terminal. This is an impulse type item and could be sold anywhere from an electronics retail store to a news stand.”

Asked by TRBusiness whether similar strategic partnerships such as the one between E. Gluck and WITHit are on the agenda, Robertaccio remained tight lipped.

“I think it’s too early to say just yet… But what I can say is that we are always looking to explore the right opportunities.”

Rob Robertaccio, Senior Vice President Global & Travel Retail Sales, E. Gluck Corporation.

TR CONSUMER FORUM: EXHIBITOR PROFILE

With under one week to go before the Travel Retail Consumer Forum – the first large-scale industry conference to take place physically since the beginning of the pandemic – TRBusiness speaks to E. Gluck Senior Vice President Global & Travel Retail Sales Rob Robertaccio.

He discusses why the event will be the jump-off for creating fresh business ideas and strategies aligned to the recovery.

How excited are you to sponsor the Travel Retail Consumer Forum and why?

We are extremely excited to be part of the Travel Retail Consumer Forum. As an in-person industry event, we thought it was incredibly important to put our support behind it.

What made E. Gluck decide to become involved and why?

Obviously, marketing budgets have become a tricky thing with the slow restart of DF&TR. I think we all expected to be much further along than we are today. However, we felt that the value of being able to connect with top industry executives early in the re-start phase and prior to TFWA Cannes was too much of an opportunity to pass up. Additionally, E. Gluck will be one of a limited number of exhibition tables at the Forum and we thought this would be a great way to show off what we do in an intimate way.

Even more exciting to us though is that we will be showing our WITHit brand of wearable accessories to the industry for the first time. This is an emerging category and the ability to explain the demand to fashionably customise the look of your smartwatch or case for your AirPods is a tremendous opportunity. It is something that advertising alone cannot explain properly. We strongly believe that there are opportunities across all selling platforms within DF&TR.

How will E. Gluck look to benefit?

The intimate nature of this event is truly the biggest benefit. At larger trade shows, the time of senior executives is very limited. This creates a one-on-one opportunity to start conversations that can be continued later on at TFWA Cannes. We are excited to be able to introduce ourselves to many key leaders in the industry that we have not had this opportunity with before.

How do you think the duty free and travel retail industry will benefit from such an event?

Knowledge and information are key to successfully emerging from the pandemic. So much has changed even since the webinars and forums that were conducted at TR Marketplace, almost a year ago. The sharing of this updated knowledge and insights will keep the industry focused to move towards the same common goal, which I believe is to bring this industry back smarter and stronger than it was before.

Unlike the virtual settings that we have all now become accustomed to, we can actually have immediate discussions with the other attendees after a presentation. This will foster the creation of fresh ideas and strategies in real-time.

E. Gluck, Anne Klein, Armitron, WITHit and Torgoen comprise the limited number of exhibitors benefitting from face-to-face meetings with buyers in an ‘intimate’ setting at the Travel Retail Consumer Forum (20-22 September), which takes place in London, UK at the Hilton Paddington hotel.

For more information on the Travel Retail Consumer Forum and to register to attend, click here.

To read more about E. Gluck Corporation, click the relevant links below: 

E.Gluck to offer WITHit wearable accessories in duty free and travel retail

E.Gluck forms strategic partnership with wearable tech company WITHit

E.Gluck vows to emerge ‘stronger and smarter’ from the Covid-19 pandemic

E.Gluck: Torgoen watches the ‘perfect complement’ for Anne Klein in DF&TR

Talking TRMarketplace: E. Gluck, Rob Robertaccio

E.Gluck to launch Torgoen premium watches into duty free and travel retail

E. Gluck to expand GTR distribution of Anne Klein Considered Watch Collection

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