TOKYO — Louis Vuitton will unveil its revamped and expanded Matsuya flagship in Ginza next week, underscoring its long-term commitment to the Japanese luxury market, which is showing signs of a rebound.
“We’ve never ignored Japan, even with the rise of China. Japan has always been a top market,” Michael Burke, chairman and chief executive officer, told WWD Friday, a day after the French brand held an event at the Tokyo Station Hotel to celebrate the opening of its “Timeless Muses” exhibition honoring notable women such as Catherine Deneuve and Kate Moss.
The Matsuya store, which will reopen Sept. 14, is the brand’s top-performing unit in its 58-store network in the country. Dating back to 2000, the store originally covered 16,146 square feet. It is gaining a third floor and will encompass an area of 20,451 square feet, carrying the same mix of leather goods, accessories and ready-to-wear but also the brand’s new Ecriture range of pens and stationery.
The revamp, which includes a new building facade, was several years in the making, Burke said.
The ceo said the company’s retail distribution network in Japan will remain largely unchanged in size for now, although Vuitton may relocate some stores to better positions. For example, the company is also preparing to open a new location in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district opposite Isetan to replace a sales point lost when Mitsukoshi closed to make way for Bicqlo, a hybrid Uniqlo/Bic Camera store.
The executive said Vuitton’s business in Japan started to pick up in a “significant” way at the tail end of last year, although he declined to quantify by how much or discuss sales figures. He said consumers here, like in the rest of the world, are responding to Vuitton’s shift in focus to high-priced leather handbags.
Perhaps more significantly, Burke noted that the profile of the Japanese consumer base and his or her spending patterns have changed over the years. Japan’s vast middle class of occasional and entry-level luxury consumers propelled luxury market growth in the past but that is not the case any longer, he explained. The “office lady” demographic of women who live at home with their parents and save up for months to buy a designer handbag is diminishing, he said.
Burke noted a growing class of “higher-end” consumers who are eager to spend the wealth they have amassed by working in fields like entertainment and software development, or at start-up companies. Often these customers are self-employed, he added.
“Twenty years ago, there was less of that. It was more dominated by the vast middle class working for large conglomerates, and Japan is becoming more diversified when it comes to that,” he said.
LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s fashion and leather goods division saw first-half sales through June 30 grow to 4.71 billion euros, or $6.17 billion at average exchange rates for the period, from 4.66 billion euros, or $6.06 billion, the year before. Japan accounted for 13 percent of the total.
Burke’s optimism for the Japanese market is just part of the executive’s sanguine view for the luxury market on a global level. Not even the prospect of potential military action in Syria appears to damper his outlook.
“I think we’ll take into account what went wrong in the last two expeditions [in Afghanistan and Iraq] so I’m an optimist. I think the U.S. government has learned a few things. The Europeans also have learned, I believe…markets always overreact. These are opportunities,” he said.
Burke was particularly upbeat about the Chinese market. While he has acknowledged that sales growth there has slowed, in part due to a political crackdown on gift-giving, he said a correction is both normal and welcome.
“Well, there were some excesses…those excesses need to come to a halt. That’s a good thing. It’s a good thing what’s happening in China,” he said. “We want to have a direct contact with our ultimate client. We do not like to have to deal with intermediaries.”
The executive said it is “difficult to say” just how much the gift-giving crackdown has impacted Vuitton’s sales, particularly of men’s items. But Burke said he’s pleased with the growth he’s seeing within the brand’s largest customer base. Asia, excluding Japan, accounted for 32 percent of LVMH’s fashion and leather goods revenue in the first half of this year.
“There will be and there is a tremendous growth in the upper-middle classes of China. That will continue,” he said.
That said, Burke said Vuitton will be cautious about expanding its network of 50 stores in China and instead will focus more on updating its existing boutiques and possibly relocating some as malls come and go in terms of popularity and success.
The luxury landscape in China is becoming increasingly competitive as every brand, even niche players, move into the market and open stores. But Burke said he’s not fazed.
“It’s the vibrancy of a market,” he said, drawing a parallel to the rise of Italian fashion brands in the Sixties and the challenge they posed to more storied French labels. “New entrants coming in, new designers are popping up, that create interest in the industry.”
@margotrobbie steps out onto the red carpet wearing @miumiu. The actress is nominated for “Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role” in “I, Tonya” at the #SagAwards. (📷: Stewart Cook) #wwdfashion
For @massimogiorgetti of @msgm, the Nineties are his favorite decade. “They had a huge impact on my personal growth. What I like of the Nineties is that they are not so precise in terms of style as other decades…there was actually a bit of everything,” he said. As seen on MSGM’s Spring 2018 show: tie-dye and a bit of grunge, two styles that are synonymous with the decade #wwdfashion #wwddecades (📷: @kukukuba)
Breaking News: @hedislimane joins @celine as its new artistic, creative and image director. One of fashion’s preeminent image-makers and trendsetters, Slimane is to join the LVMH brand on Feb. 1 and unveil his first fashion proposition for men and women next September during Paris Fashion Week. It marks a major homecoming for Slimane, who cemented his reputation – and influenced men’s tailoring for more than a decade – as the designer of Dior Homme between 2000 and 2007. He went on to reinvent and ignite the house of Yves Saint Laurent, which he rechristened Saint Laurent, between 2012 and 2016 – all the while maintaining a close relationship with the Arnault family, which controls LVMH and Dior. Read the full exclusive story on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
“Personally I believe the Eighties have been the richest and more vivacious period for international fashion,” Giorgio Armani said when asked what his favorite decade of fashion is. It was a moment of disruption and experimentation and only thinking back to the first years of that decade is always an emotion for me, for what they have meant to me and my work.” The influence is clear in @giorgioarmani spring 2018 collection, pictured here, which was full of bright colors and unexpected prints. Read more about which decades designers loved most on WWD.com #wwdfashion #wwddecades (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
For Lady Gaga’s only Italian show on her “Joanne World Tour,” the singer wore a range of @versace_official outfits. The standout piece: this custom-made bodysuit inspired by the brand’s spring 2018 collection. #wwdfashion (RG: @ladygaga)
@_camillaruth_ is expanding on the wellness-craze concept with @westbourne – a new NYC restaurant that’s both a healthy-minded café as well as a business that gives back to the community. Marcus works with the Robin Hood foundation to give back to The Door, a non-profit providing youth development services, and also hires employees through The Door. Read our full interview with Marcus on giving back through food on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)