PARIS — In another sign of luxury’s robust health, Hermès International said Thursday fourth-quarter sales sprinted forward 10 percent to 509.3 million euros, or $746 million, aided by new and expanded stores. At constant exchange rates, the improvement stood at 15.6 percent.

“For the moment, we’re optimistic for 2008,” said Mireille Maury, the firm’s managing director of finance and administration. “The second half [of 2007] was better than the first. “We see no signs of slowdown, including at our [New York] Wall Street store,” which opened last June.

Maury said January sales continued at the same strong pace, boding well for the sector amidst an unsettled economic climate. LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and PPR also have reported healthy growth for luxury and downplayed the impact of any U.S. slowdown.

On Thursday, Hermès set an objective of 10 percent growth at constant exchange for 2008.

Reported sales in the fourth quarter reflect a strong negative currency impact, falling 5.8 percent in Japan. Restated at constant exchange and on a like-for-like basis, Japan improved 2.1 percent.

The Americas were robust, with reported sales up 11.7 percent, or 22.5 percent in organic, like-for-like terms. In France, sales jumped 14 percent in euros, reflecting the expansion of the Hermès flagship at 24 Faubourg Saint-Honoré. The rest of Europe posted a leap of 30.6 percent.

Citing a strong consumer response to its fall-winter collections, Maury said holiday sales were excellent. Among best-selling items were: silk squares and neckties; Kelly, Birkin, Lindy and Victoria handbags; jewelry, and home items.

By product category in the fourth quarter, reported sales rose 9.5 percent for silk and textiles, 8.6 percent for perfume, 8.5 percent for ready-to-wear and fashion accessories, 7.9 percent for leather goods and 6.1 percent for tableware. Sales of watches fell 8.1 percent, which Maury blamed on a restructuring of its distribution in Japan and sluggish sales there.

She noted that business in Japan is “less difficult than a year ago,” but growth is likely to remain modest.

By contrast, Hermès has been doubling its business in China annually and plans to open two new boutiques in 2008, in Qingdao and Kunming. The firm also plans to open its first location in India this year, a unit in New Dehli slated to open in April.

This story first appeared in the February 8, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Maintaining the pace of 2007, Hermès said it would open or renovate 40 locations this year, including new stores in San Diego and Mexico City and expansion in Hong Kong, Barcelona and Dalian in China.

For the full year, sales rose 7.3 percent to 1.6251 billion euros, or $2.38 billion, an increase of 12.5 percent at constant exchange. Dollar figures are at the average exchange rate.

On a like-for-like basis and stripping out the impact of currency, full-year sales advanced 14.6 percent in Asia-Pacific, 14.4 percent in the Americas, 13.9 percent in Europe and 2.8 percent in Japan.

Shares in Hermès gained 1.79 percent Thursday to close at 69.90 euros, or $101.25, on the Paris Bourse.

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