By  on October 27, 2006

MILAN — Given the numbers, Italian luxury goods executives had plenty of reasons to be upbeat at a meeting of the Altagamma association here last week.

A study by consultants Bain & Co. found that worldwide luxury goods sales rose 9 percent last year to 146 billion euros, or $183.4 billion at current exchange rates, which was defined as a "solid" increase by Bain partner Claudia D'Arpizio because it was not influenced by currency fluctuations. For 2006, Bain & Co. expects an increase of between 8 percent and 10 percent, reaching sales of between 158 billion and 162 billion euros, or $198.5 and $203.5 billion, respectively.

Last year, both "old" and "new" markets grew, and the U.S. stood out as the largest single area, accounting for 36 percent of global sales and totaling 52 billion euros, or $65.3 billion, a 9 percent increase in 2005 compared with the previous year.

European brands dominated in the U.S., and accessories in that market also showed a rapid growth: leather goods grew 21 percent, followed by shoes and jewelry, which rose 11 percent each.

Tourists from Russia, China and India helped sales in Europe grow 7 percent — a market worth 50 billion euros, or $62.8 billion. "Travel retail continues to be the main force around the world," said D'Arpizio. Japan, a market where brand names remain key, grew 11 percent, totaling 23 billion euros, or $28.8 billion, driven by the cachet of Italian and French brands, the boost in accessories and by accessible luxury labels. The Asia-Pacific market grew 16 percent, totaling 15 billion euros, or $18.8 billion. In particular, China and India showed a hefty 70 percent and 25 percent hike, respectively.

Apparel accounted for 32 percent of the luxury goods market and women's ready-to-wear grew 9 percent, led by the performance of designer signature lines, and overall leather goods went up 18 percent and even 20 percent in Asia and the U.S. "Superluxury is picking up in all categories," said D'Arpizio.

During a roundtable discussion about the study, executives from companies such as Valentino, Luxottica and Alberta Ferretti expressed confidence that their strategies would yield even more positive results this year compared with last year.

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