Q&A with Gary Cohen, new CEO of Timex
Westport resident Gary S. Cohen, former global general manager and vice president of Playtex Products, in January was appointed the new chief executive officer of Middlebury-based Timex Group, a world-renowned watch maker founded in 1854 as the Waterbury Clock Co. He has also held senior management and marketing positions with The Gillete Co. and Procter & Gamble.
Cohen replaces Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard as the company's CEO. Hoejsgaard, the former CEO of George Jensesn, left Timex, where he was chief executive since February 2008, to become the CEO of Swiss cigar maker Oettinger Davidoff Group.
Cohen recently made himself available for a Q & A interview concerning his new position and the future of Timex Group, whose brands include Timex, Guess, Nautica, Opex, Valentino and Salvatore Ferragamo.
Where do you see opportunities for developing new business for Timex Group?
Expanding Timex Group brands globally is one of our top priorities. We will grow by expanding doors, increasing our presence in developing markets, and expanding our many sub-lines -- from Timex to our luxury brands and our Sequel division's Guess watch brands. We are focused on growing retail channels across all brands. For Timex, we are developing new distribution in the department store arena with our heritage product and will target growth in the U.S. sports channel. We plan to open 50 Guess Collection boutiques around the world over the next few years. Since 2008, we've rolled out Versace Watch and Jewelry boutiques in Rome, Dubai and Beijing with a new store opening in Moscow this year.
Is Timex Group working on any new products?
We're launching Timex Intelligent Quartz (IQ), an incredibly flexible and expandable platform that encompasses independent motors, digital sensors and microprocessors capable of displaying an array of information. IQ features an intuitive perpetual calendar, world time, compass, altimeter and other advanced functions at an attractive retail price. Other upcoming launches include: additions to Timex Originals, a vintage-influenced collection that capitalizes on Timex's heritage and brand legacy; and the Timex Ironman Target Trainer with TapScreen Technology. In luxury we are reintroducing the Versace Eon Precious and Destiny Spirits lines. New Ferragamo special models, such as Gancino Soiree and 1898, will support expansion in most markets, especially Asia.
Can you share any long-term goals you may have for Timex Group?
My personal leadership style is focused on building brands, leaders, and teams. In the case of Timex Group, it means expanding our portfolio of brands globally -- especially our flagship brand Timex -- and investing in the consumer through strategic marketing efforts and technology innovation. Across the board, we will be enhancing our marketing programs to create strong relationships with our consumer segments. I will also be focusing on building our internal capabilities in all functions across our global organization.
How will your previous experience at Playtex, Gillette and P&G help you lead Timex?
First, I love my new position and am so thrilled to be working on such an exciting and dynamic category with great growth potential. Throughout my career, I've worked on iconic consumer brands, including Gillette, Oral-B, Playtex, and Hawaiian Tropic and I've specialized in expanding those brands globally via new products, geographic expansion, and brand building. I will approach my work with Timex Group and its portfolio of brands in a similar way -- working to understand our various consumer segments and delivering new products that deliver meaningful benefits to them.
Has the cell phone, which also acts as a clock, affected the demand for wristwatches? Why or why not?
The watch industry is undergoing a transformation based on changing consumer tastes and needs and rapid growth of new technologies. Consumers are accessorizing with watches based on current style and fashion trends, not to just tell time. Watches can serve additional specialized functions that measure GPS, altimeter and heart rate, which can aid, for example, in athletic training. Demand continues to grow for watches that deliver health and wellness functional benefits. New technologies, such as smart phones or the Internet, can change demand in many consumer categories. For example, people still watch TV and listen to the radio despite the presence of these new technologies. Their habits change but the existing modes of entertainment are still relevant. Our goal is to continue to make watches relevant and meaningful for consumers.
Has the economy affected demand for Timex watches? If so, how?
All consumer companies have a cautious view on investment given the recent economic uncertainties. That said, we must continue to focus on new product activity, advertising and market expansion to grow. I think we have all learned to make selective investment bets. Our industry is seeing significant labor and material cost increases from many of our suppliers, especially in Asia, and we have to selectively address where we can pass these costs onto our consumers. It always helps to have new technology to support any increases in consumer prices so that we maintain loyalty to our brand.