Adrienne Forrest, the Vice President of Corporate Sales for Citizen Watch America, says that the time piece industry withstood the challenges of the pandemic surprisingly well and that a big lesson is: relationships count. The Citizen and Bulova suite of brands are now under Forrest’s direction.
From a business perspective, the timing of the pandemic could not have come at a much more inconvenient time for Citizen Watch America and its portfolio of brands. The crisis struck just as the company was merging corporate sales for its two flagship brand categories under the direction of Adrienne Forrest, who before that had headed Bulova corporate sales for nearly 19 years. In this interview with RRN, Forrest reflects on the lessons learned from the pandemic, the popularity of her company’s watch brands, the value of having long-standing industry relationships, and the company’s early commitment to selling through distributors.
Despite the challenges and a “very tumultuous year, our business has rebounded in a remarkable way. We are seeing great results because people are buying watches. It is very rewarding to see our sales results and to see that our brands are compelling and are resonating in the market. The results support the fact that Citizen Watch America comes to the market with No. 1 and No. 2 brands. About one third of watch sales are coming out of our powerhouse under the umbrella of Citizen and Bulova. Our sales last year were stronger than we anticipated.”
The two brands have distinct stories that make them highly synergetic, she believes.
“Bulova is all about telling our story: our rich history of firsts. A great current example is our connection with Frank Sinatra. We have a partnership with the Frank Sinatra Foundation headed by his daughter to provide four collections based on the names of his songs, the elements of his hat, and his signature. Bulova was the sponsor of the Frank Sinatra show in the 1950s. He owned and wore Bulova watches. It’s all about our connections to the past and the present.”
On the other hand, “We just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the titanium watch and now have a super titanium model. It’s hypoallergenic, rust resistant, 5x harder and 40% lighter than stainless steel. We also launched CZ Smart which marries modern technologies with the style and quality you expect from Citizen, and is inspired by the rich design of Citizen’s iconic sport technical timepieces.”
Corporate sales remain “a very strong part of overall company’s business. It speaks to the importance of brands in the marketplace. The brand name is what resonates, tells a story, and which provides the ultimate value to the recipient. For this reason, having the No. 1 and No. 2 brands has an impact on this market.” Citizen Watch America, she says, “is dedicated to this channel. You must be able to meet demands that are very different from retail. The need for personalized service and support for our corporate resellers and the requirements for customization set us apart.”
Being first to market selling through promotional professionals, she says, was painful but has paid off. “At first, distributors wondered what we were doing at the shows, and it only took 20 years for them to really get comfortable selling brands,” she says with a smile. She estimates that about 10% of distributors are selling brands and that the percentage will continue to rise as businesses seek more sustainable items. “People hold on to watches, even sometimes passing them on to family. Companies want to give gifts and awards that people keep and value.”
Like most retail brands, Citizen Watch America has experienced supply chain issues but feels “we are coming out of it. Our product category was in a better situation going into the pandemic, and other categories experienced totally unanticipated demand when suddenly everyone was exercising, baking, or doing other things around the house.”
While she agrees that the new focus on people in business will be good for the industry, she says it’s difficult to forecast parallel growth in special markets. “There are just so many ways to buy watches out there, that it’s difficult for us to control where they buy from. There are so many brands and products divvying up the market.”
So what are some of the biggest lessons from the pandemic? “The relationships that we have with our customers are very strong. This is still a very relationship-based business. Our customers trust us and that helped us when our facilities were shut down last year and we couldn’t ship. We have developed and continue to build on the relationships using virtual meetings. We have learned to work in a different way with the hope that we can meet again soon in person. Working through the channels has strengthened partnerships. I am glad we have been able to work so well together without seeing people face to face.”
She believes travel and events will come back, “but I think there will be less. We’ve learned we can do business effectively virtually with presentations and nice photography. Most of our customers are still at home. There is no one I can even go see. There will be a lasting impact on the way we meet with customers.”
For More Information
VP, Corporate Sales, Citizen Watch America
Education, Certifications, and Information to Activate
Brand Media and Enterprise Engagement
A complete learning, certification, and information program and a course syllabus for educators.
Resources: The Brand Media Coalition, the only guide to the story-telling power of brands and where to source them for business, event, promotional gifting, and rewards and recognition. Enterprise Engagement Solution Provider Directory. The only directory of engagement solution providers covering all types of agencies and tactics as well as insights on how to select them.
Communities: The Enterprise Engagement Alliance and Advocate and the Brand Media Coalition free resource centers offering access to the latest research, news, and case studies; discounts, promotions, referrals, and commissions, when appropriate to third-party solution providers from participating coalition solution provider members.
Training and Certification
Enterprise Engagement Alliance Education: Certified Engagement Practitioner; Advanced Engaged Practitioner, and Certified Engagement Solution Provider learning and certification programs on how to implement Stakeholder Capitalism principles at the tactical level.
International Center for Enterprise Engagement: The only training and certification program for ISO 30414 human capital reporting and ISO 10018 quality people management certification.
The EEA offers a complimentary course syllabus for educators.
This is the definitive implementation guide to Stakeholder Capitalism, written specifically to provide CEOs and their leadership teams a concise overview of the framework, economics, and implementation process of a CEO-led strategic and systematic approach to achieving success through people. (123 pages, $15.99)
The first and most comprehensive book on Enterprise Engagement and the new ISO 9001 and ISO 10018 quality people management standards. Includes 36 chapters detailing how to better integrate and align engagement efforts across the enterprise. (312 pages, $36.)
10-minute short course: click here for a 10-minute introduction to Enterprise Engagement and ISO standards from the Coggno.com learning platform.
• The Engagement Agency at EngagementAgency.net, offering: complete support services for employers, solution providers, and technology firms seeking to profit from formal engagement practices for themselves or their clients, including Brand and Capability audits for solution providers to make sure their products and services are up to date.
• C-Suite Advisory Service—Education of boards, investors, and C-suite executives on the economics, framework, and implementation processes of Enterprise Engagement.
• Speakers Bureau—Select the right speaker on any aspect of engagement for your next event.
• Mergers and Acquisitions. The Engagement Agency’s Mergers and Acquisition group is aware of multiple companies seeking to purchase firms in the engagement field. Contact Michael Mazer in confidence if your company is potentially for sale at 303-320-3777.
Enterprise Engagement Benchmark Tools: The Enterprise Engagement Alliance offers three tools to help organizations profit from Engagement. Click here to access the tools.
• ROI of Engagement Calculator. Use this tool to determine the potential return-on-investment of an engagement strategy.
• EE Benchmark Indicator. Confidentially benchmark your organization’s Enterprise Engagement practices against organizations and best practices.
• Compare Your Company’s Level of Engagement. Quickly compare your organization’s level of engagement to those of others based on the same criteria as the EEA’s Engaged Company Stock Index.
• Gauge Your Personal Level of Engagement. This survey, donated by Horsepower, enables individuals to gauge their own personal levels of engagement.
For more information, contact Bruce Bolger at Bolger@TheEEA.org, 914-591-7600, ext. 230.