PRIORITIZING: The amount Germans spend on apparel continues to decline, according to a new study from the GfK Market Research Group in Nuremberg. Whereas German consumers spent an average of 12 percent of their disposable income on apparel in 1999, they are devoting only 9.2 percent to clothing purchases this year. GfK estimated that consumers in Germany together have more than $481.6 billion, or 430 billion euros, of spending power. Dollar figures are converted from euros at current exchange. That amount averages $5,837 of disposable income per head. GfK said consumers here spend $2,064 of that, or 35.4 percent, on food and tobacco, followed by 13.6 percent for health and body-care products, 10 percent for home construction and building supplies and 9.5 percent for furniture and interior design, with apparel ranking fifth. Books and writing supplies came in sixth, followed by electric appliances and lights; entertainment electronics; games and hobbies; shoes and leather goods; photo and optical supplies; active sportswear and sporting goods; glass, porcelain and household goods; information technology; watches and jewelry, and telecommunications. Geographically, Dusseldorf took first place in average fashion expenditures per head, whereas Munich residents are the nation’s biggest spenders on chocolate, shoes and beer.
— Melissa Drier
LICKETY SPLIT: Giorgio Armani breezed in and out of Barcelona last week to help launch his new store on the Avenida Diagonal, the Catalan capital’s main commercial artery. London-based architect Claudio Silvestrin, an Armani regular, designed the 5,540-square-foot, two-story location, which is the color of heavy cream. The locale houses the complete women’s and men’s collections of Borgonuovo and Classico, plus accessories. At the launch party, boldface guests included Isabel Preysler, better known as Enrique Iglesias’ mother; Barcelona architect Ricardo Bofill, and political songster Joan Manuel Serrat. Filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar and actor Javier Bardem sent congratulations — and regrets. Amalia Zunzunegui, who owns the Armani franchise in Spain, hosted a small dinner afterward. The Infanta Cristina, daughter of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, was there, but Armani was winging his way back home. Total time in Barcelona: about four hours.
— Barbara Barker
LOW GEAR: Etam, the French fast-fashion chain, last week reported a 16.6 percent drop in second-quarter income to $1.12 million, or 1 million euros, from $1.3 million, or 1.2 million euros, in the year-earlier period. Citing restructuring costs and the stagnant European economy, Etam said sales in the period fell 3.6 percent to $572.8 million, or 511.4 million euros, from $593.9 million, or 530.3 million euros, last year. Etam, which has been overhauling its product offering over the last year, said it would continue to concentrate on turnaround in the second half of the year. It predicted that the domestic economy looked “uncertain” for the end of the year.
— Robert Murphy
SECOND HAND: Thanks to a glut of gloves on the fall runways, the Liverpool-based European Glove Association has snapped to attention, promoting its newfound appeal. After all, it’s charged with, ahem, lending a hand to a very sizable business. Disclosing the most recent figures available, it said the retail market for gloves in Europe stood at $424.5 million for 2002. By geographic region, the value of gloves sold in Germany reached $111 million, followed closely by France at $100.5 million and the U.K., whose figures were estimated at $67 million. In Italy, sales were reported at $33.5 million; Spain, $16.8 million, and Russia, $4.5 million. For the rest of Europe, sales totaled $89.3 million. Dollar figures are converted from the euro at current exchange rates. Leather gloves, which represented 30 percent of total sales last year, are expected to top the charts again this year with styles like Gucci’s classic leather gloves and Chanel’s black studded style. However, Gaultier’s elbow-length cotton gloves in white and blue and Prada’s floral prints also should keep hands out of pockets this season.
— Emilie Marsh
ADIEU, KOOKAI: Less than a year after she was hired to revamp Kookai, the fast-fashion firm owned by France’s Groupe Vivarte, Elisabeth Sandager has left as president. A successor has yet to be named, according to a spokeswoman. Sandager, a former Bang & Olufsen executive, had tried to build excitement around the chain by bringing in young designers to do capsule collections and by hiring photographer Peter Lindbergh to do advertising.