By and  on July 28, 2006

Luxury delivered more good news on Thursday, with both PPR and Bulgari SpA reporting strong double-digit sales growth for the second quarter ending June 30.

PPR said luxury sales in the three-month period climbed 22.4 percent to 777 million euros, or $975.8 million, contributing to an overall 6.2 percent increase in group revenues to 4.06 billion euros, or $5.09 billion. Bulgari said revenues for the second quarter rose 16.3 percent to 243.9 million euros, or $307.31 million.

The growth at PPR was driven by "impressive" gains at the Gucci Group division during the quarter, with sales climbing 24.3 percent to 470.6 million euros, or $591 million, from 378.6 million euros, or $477.4 million, in the corresponding period a year earlier. All currency conversions are made at average exchange rates.

During a conference call on Thursday, PPR chief financial officer Jean-Francois Palus said luxury delivered double-digit gains in "nearly all regions" and that the division's growth pace had accelerated even further in the second quarter. (Gucci Group's sales rose 18 percent in the first quarter.)

Gucci, steered by chief executive officer Mark Lee and designer Frida Giannini, continued to be the luxury division's cash cow. Sales of leather goods, dresses and knitwear turned in the best performances, Palus said, adding that sales were up double-digits in all geographical zones and in all categories.

Palus singled out timepieces as a category that saw vast improvement thanks to the best-selling Twirl watch. He said Gucci would "accelerate" store openings in the second half, led by two new units in Japan.

Bottega Veneta saw sales leap 81 percent in the period to 58.3 million euros, or $73.2 million, from 32.6 million, or $41.1 million, a year ago. The brand recorded double-digit gains in all categories and all geographic zones as it continued to aggressively expand its retail network. The company opened eight stores in the first half of the year, including units in Cannes and Tokyo.

Positive developments materialized at Yves Saint Laurent, which is struggling to move out of the red. Palus said the brand's leather goods sales improved 43 percent on the strong performance of the Muse bag, and that YSL had seen "high double-digit" gains in ready-to-wear, driving sales forward to 42.2 million euros, or $53 million, from 33.1 million euros, or $41.7 million, last year.

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