By  on April 28, 2006

PARIS — Call it the Frida effect.

Boosted partly by “excellent sales” of Frida Giannini’s debut ready-to-wear collection for Gucci, luxury goods sales powered ahead 19 percent at Gucci Group to 846.8 million euros, or $1.02 billion, in the first quarter — yet another bubbly showing for the high-flying sector.

The Gucci brand, experiencing a “boom” in sales in the Asia-Pacific region, posted growth of 18.2 percent to 508.3 million euros, or $611.2 million, in the three months ended March 31.

Reflecting improving household consumption in France, but less buoyancy in its vast retail operations, overall sales at conglomerate PPR rose 7.9 percent to 4.43 billion euros, or $5.33 billion. The retail portion logged a 5.6 percent uptick to 3.59 billion euros, or $4.32 billion. (Dollar figures are converted from euros according to average exchange rates for the period.)

“This quarter is definitely reflecting the good momentum of every quarter last year, the improvement of the economic environment and our growing international activities,” chief financial officer Jean-François Palus told analysts during a conference call Thursday. “We are very satisfied with these figures.”

He also assured that PPR’s far-flung retail chains — selling everything from cars and books to furniture and pharmaceuticals — had “regained traction.”

Meanwhile, he boasted that its leather goods and fashion activities vaulted 25 percent, “outperforming key competitors.”

Gucci said it posted double-digit growth in all geographic areas, including Japan, where sales jumped 10.8 percent. Sales leaped 34.5 percent in the Asia-Pacific, 21.1 percent in North America and 16.7 percent in Europe.

Although Giannini received mixed reviews for her spring-summer 2006 collection of peak-shouldered dresses, cashmere rugby shirts and tomboy-ish pantsuits, sales of women’s rtw posted a 24.3 percent gain to 37.9 million euros, or $45.6 million, the biggest improvement among Gucci’s various product categories.

Sales of leather goods rose 20.2 percent to 294.3 million euros, or $353.9 million, while shoes stepped up 21.2 percent to 70.2 million euros, or $84.4 million. Wholesale orders also vaulted 22 percent, accounting for 29 percent of sales, but Gucci watch sales were described as “disappointing.”

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