By  on January 20, 2006

PARIS — Edging closer to its goal of becoming a $1 billion fashion player, Christian Dior said sales in 2005 rose 11.4 percent to 663 million euros, or $825.7 million.

Sales in the fourth quarter advanced 12 percent to 183 million euros, or $217.7 million, boosted by sales of the house's Flight handbags, backed by an ad campaign featuring Riley Keough, granddaughter of Elvis Presley. Dollar figures are converted from euros at average exchange rates for the respective periods.

"I think we should continue with at least the same trend for 2006," Dior president Sidney Toledano told WWD, citing a good start in January with a "very strong double-digit" sales pace.

Dior cited strength across all geographic regions and categories in December, highlighting a rebound in Europe and strong consumer reaction to John Galliano's pre-spring ready-to-wear collection. Fine jewelry by Victoire de Castellane and men's wear by Hedi Slimane also performed "extremely well," Toledano added.

He said the "upscaling" phenomenon was in full evidence in December, with strong sales of crocodile handbags and fur coats, so much so that there was no need to put the latter category on sale.

"Customers are looking for real luxury and not hesitating to buy more expensive products," he said, while stressing that the need to balance very expensive products with some for "aspirational" customers would be a strategic priority in 2006.

Toledano declined to break down regional sales results, but said Asia, including Japan, posted the biggest gains, with the United States and Europe, excepting Paris, also posting double-digit gains.

Paris' retail scene, which has been sluggish, improved in the fourth quarter, Toledano noted. "In December, the flow of tourists improved," he said.

Looking ahead, he said he was "positive" about the year ahead and spied "huge potential" in markets like the U.S. Dior ended 2005 with a network of 194 locations. Key openings in the last quarter included Puerto Rico; Chevy Chase, Md., and Holt Renfrew shops in Toronto and Montreal.

Toledano said he would keep up the pace of rollouts, with perhaps 10 to 15 additional locations in 2006. Among those planned for the first half are in New Delhi; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Kuwait, and Dalian in China, along with Dior Homme stores for Beverly Hills and an expanded Peking Road location in Hong Kong.

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