Byline: Mark Tosh

NEW YORK — Members of the Comite Colbert see another round of sales gains this year, primarily in the U.S., according to Christian Blanckaert, president of the French luxury goods organization. Noting that the Pacific Rim also is a growth market, Blanckaert said Thursday, “I am pretty confident that the American market is one of those with the most, if not the most, potential for French luxury goods. We’re on an upward trend in the U.S,” since 1992, he added.
Blanckaert spoke at a news conference here outlining the Comité’s plans for its promotional campaign in New York, June 5-10, and in Beverly Hills, Nov. 6-11. The promotions include dinners and other events designed to build demand for French luxury products.
Blanckaert said 1994 results are not yet tallied, but they should indicate that member companies’ sales to the U.S. rose to 13 or 14 percent of total volume from 12 percent in 1993. He believes the percentage could go higher this year and attributed the increases to rising consumer demand, higher employment and better-managed department stores.
“You had a crisis in U.S. department stores, and now it seems to be over,” he said. The major stores are “managed again by people who know their jobs — they’re selling again.” Some French companies had 20 percent sales gains in the U.S. last year, he said, but declined to name them. Member companies include Chanel, Givenchy, Lanvin, and Boucheron.
In 1993, Comite Colbert members reported aggregate volume of $6 billion (31.7 billion francs) at current exchange. Like the U.S, Japan accounted for 12 percent of the group’s total. Among the emerging markets for French luxury goods is China, which accounted for 1 percent of Comite Colbert’s aggregate sales in 1993, and 5 percent of Pacific Rim sales.
In that part of the world, the group stepped up its efforts against counterfeiters with the opening of a Beijing office. Blanckaert said the organization is encouraging the Chinese government to help stop the manufacture of bogus goods.
Counterfeiting also is rampant in North and South Korea, where manufacturers are registering trademarks similar to those carried on legitimate luxury goods.
In other efforts, The Colbert Foundation, which supports educational projects, will hold its benefit dinner June 7 at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. For this year’s Comite promotion, Saks Fifth Avenue will host a party June 5 to launch the campaign in New York.
Arie L. Kopelman, president of Chanel Inc. and the Comite’s U.S. chairman, said the group hopes eventually to hold promotions in other cities, possibly Chicago or San Francisco.