PARIS — Suggesting the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels are having a lingering impact on tourism flows and consumer sentiment in Europe, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton reported Monday that sales of fashion and leather goods stalled in the first quarter.
Releasing results after the close of trading on the Paris Bourse, LVMH said sales at the linchpin division — where flagship brand Louis Vuitton contributes an estimated 50 percent of group profits — came to 2.97 billion euros, or $3.29 billion, about 10 million euros shy of first-quarter tallies in 2015.
It is understood that LVMH registered a sharper drop in tourist traffic in March than in December, one month after the attacks in the French capital that left 130 dead and hundreds injured. The attacks in Belgium last month claimed 32 victims.
Europe accounted for 18 percent of LVMH’s 2015 sales, with France representing an additional 10 percent.
Group sales rose 3.6 percent in the three months ended March 31 to 8.62 billion euros, or $9.51 billion. Stripping out the impact of currency fluctuations, the gain stood at 4 percent.
Dollar figures are converted from euros at average exchange rates for the period.
The numbers missed consensus expectations and reinforced that the luxury sector is lodged in a period of muted growth.
LVMH reported a 5 percent increase in organic terms for the fourth quarter of 2015. This compared with a rise of 7 percent in the third quarter of 2015.
Luca Solca, managing director of equities and sector head of luxury goods at Exane BNP Paribas, said the miss for the January-to-March period was not surprising and suggests that “this quarter will be difficult for the sector overall.”
LVMH, one of the first big European players to report numbers for the start of the year, trumpeted a “strong” U.S. market and described Europe as “well-oriented except for France, which is affected by a fall in tourism.”
It also noted “Asian markets are varied, but Japan continues to progress.”
“We believe the sequential slowdown reflects the combination of regional headwinds such as softer inbound tourist trends into France [an impact of the Paris attacks], continued reset of the Hong Kong market and potential normalization in trends in Japan,” Thomas Chauvet, luxury analyst at Citi, said in a research note.
He noted the miss in fashion and leather came up against the easiest comparative of 2015 at 1 percent “while a much stronger comp of plus 10 percent could prove challenging in Q2.”
This is likely to “put pressure on the shares near-term,” he added.
Citi maintains a “buy” rating on the stock, characterizing LVMH as a “well-balanced group and less cyclical than commonly perceived.”
The French firm is to host a conference call Tuesday to discuss the results.
Burberry is due to issue a trading update on Thursday, while Kering is to report first-quarter results on April 21 and Hermès International one week later.
At LVMH, organic sales increased 4 percent for selective retailing, 6 percent for wines and spirits, 7 percent for watches and jewelry, and 9 percent for perfumes and cosmetics.
The latter division was boosted by Dior’s new men’s scent Sauvage, fronted by actor Johnny Depp. It recorded a “remarkable success” in the first quarter, LVMH said, also highlighting the launch of Dior’s Poison Girl, which targets a younger audience than the original Poison from 1985.
In watches and jewelry, LVMH cited an “excellent performance” for Bulgari jewelry and a “good quarter” at Tag Heuer.
Strong sales of Champagne in Europe and Hennessy cognac in the U.S. underpinned gains wines and spirits, while Sephora carried the selective retailing division, logging “exceptional growth” in North America. DFS, by contract, “continues to face an uncertain economic environment in Asia,” the company said.
As for fashion and leather goods, LVMH trumpeted “creative momentum” at Vuitton and noted its “legendary leather line models achieved good success.” It also highlighted an “excellent” performance at Fendi, with Céline and Kenzo experiencing “good starts to the year.”
In a research note, Barclays said it expects the “disappointing numbers” in fashion and leather goods and “the recent trends in Europe post the terrorist attacks” to be the main topics of the results call.
The most recent figures from Global Blue, a tax refund company that tracks tourist flows and spend in regions including Europe and Asia-Pacific, showed that spending in Europe was negative for the second month in a row, or minus 2 percent in February after an 8.4 percent fall in January.
France, which saw an average monthly sales growth of 40 percent year-on-year during 2015, slowed down sharply in October to 5.4 percent.
The Paris events took a direct toll on apparel consumption, which had started to see a recovery in the months of August, September and October, as reported. “The attacks of November 13 altered the playing field, and business activity that month registered a sharp decline compared to November 2014, down 7.7 percent in value terms,” according to the French Institute of Fashion. “Year-end festivities failed to reverse the trend, especially as the mild December weather limited clothing buys, eliminating any hope of a consumer recovery in 2015.”
Subsequently, textile and apparel consumption for the full year 2015 is expected to show a slight decline of 0.4 percent versus 2014.