Houlden Group cracks down on ‘grey market’ traders in letter to members

20/08/2010 Stuart LaingGlasgowScotland

Outgoing Houlden Group CEO, Stuart Laing, has outlined the organisation’s attitude to the ‘grey market’ of Swiss watch brands and the retailers and suppliers who support it.

In a letter sent to members, Laing comments: “As you can see we are doing what we can to protect the positioning of the watch brands, and their approved stockists.”

The letter comes after Laing challenged the NAG, now the National Association of Jewellers, to tackle ‘grey market’ importers within its membership at the annual Houlden Summer Getaway event in June.

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He highlighted that some NAG members were selling Rolexes and other prestige brands that had not been bought through authorised channels.

The new letter from the Houlden Group states: “There will be an article in The Link regarding the ‘grey’ market which defines Houlden’s attitude to that market and the retailers and suppliers who support it. After discussions with various Swiss watch brands that are affected by this market, we have clearly decided on our Company Policy.

“Firstly, let us define ‘grey market’ goods. These are goods that are traded through distribution channels that are legal but are unofficial and unauthorised by the original manufacturer.

“Whilst we are aware of the manufacturers’ duty to close down these channels, we must play our part in supporting them. Especially when the trade association feels that they cannot intervene!”

This appears to directly confront the NAG over its policies, furthering Laing’s argument at the Houlden Group’s Summer Getaway that the association “needs to get its house in order, or Houlden members will not have to be members of the NAJ”.

The letter continues: “The Directors have decided, after consultation with many members, that any member supplying openly ‘grey market product’ to the consumer will, in the first instance, be warned that this is contrary to the Houlden code of ethics and they should desist from this practice.

“Should they continue with this form of trading then they will be asked to leave the Group. (This is not applicable to second hand or nearly new goods).”


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