By  on January 28, 2005

NEW YORK — France’s PPR on Thursday said fourth-quarter sales increased 7.4 percent to 7.21 billion euros, or $9.35 billion, lifted by double-digit increases at Gucci Group in the last two months of the year.

The retail and luxury conglomerate, which has just shortened its name from Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, said better-than-expected, like-for-like luxury sales rocketed 16.3 percent in November and December, driven by high-margin leather goods such as Gucci’s Flora line.

Serge Weinberg, PPR chairman, said the group’s luxury sales were expanding at a similar clip in January and that he was “optimistic” for the rest of the year.

Fourth-quarter comparable sales at the Gucci division, which counts Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, YSL Beauté and brands such as Alexander McQueen and Boucheron, rose 10.7 percent to 1.23 billion euros, or $1.6 billion, PPR said. Dollar figures are at the average exchange rate.

The sales represented the last five months through Dec. 31, as PPR harmonizes Gucci’s reporting schedule with its own financial calendar. PPR took full control of Gucci last spring.

Weinberg said luxury growth had been strong in all locations except Japan. For example, in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, Weinberg cited sales growth of 40 percent over the last two months.

For the Gucci brand, sales increased 9 percent in the quarter, but were up 16 percent in November and December. For the three months through Oct. 31, Gucci sales were 376.1 million euros, or $475 million, while they hit 332.8 million euros, or $428 million, in November and December alone.

Weinberg said leather goods sales at Gucci increased 24 percent, while footwear was up more than 30 percent.

Bottega sales, driven by lines such as Veneta and Baby Bag, boomed 49 percent to 28.1 million euros, or $36.5 million, in the quarter on a comparable basis, Weinberg said, and were up 52 percent in November and December.

At the money-losing Yves Saint Laurent brand, sales of 45.4 million euros, or $58.9 million, in the fourth quarter represented a 13.4 percent improvement, which was led by increases in Asia-Pacific and the U.S. For the year, YSL sales were 169.2 million euros, or $210.5 million, up 10.9 percent.

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