Another positive luxury earnings report, now with some
straight talk about how 2008 will shape up, comes across
our desk this morning from Paris-based juggernaut LVMH.
The company, which markets a wide range of luxury products, posted sales gains across every category in its portfolio. In sum, company-wide revenues increased 8% to $24.1 billion, with profits climbing 12% to $5.2 billion for 2007.
While those gains are certainly commendable, Chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault didn't shy away from addressing some of the problems facing the U.S. market, though he was bullish on the company's prospects, given its higher-end clientele.
"It is true that the year is starting in a rather worrisome situation in terms of the economy and the financial markets in particular...[and] our analysis of the situation is that in 2008 we're likely to experience a degree of recession more or less important in the U.S. economy," Arnault said, in a conference call, though he added that January sales were in line with year-end performance for the company and noted that he believes the recession should only last one or two quarters into 2008, with market recovery by 2009.
"I believe that [the recession's] consequences on LVMH will be limited, weak, or even non-existent," Renault said. "In fact, the clientele that we are dealing with is far less affected than the rest of the economy by these short-term economic swings. They have high purchasing power, located in a number of countries where the economic climate will be bouyant, even if there's a minor recession in the U.S."
Returning back to the quarterly results, of particular interest to us were the following revenue boosts: sales of fashion and leather goods grew 8% to $8.24 billion, at current exchange rates, in 2007; the perfumes and cosmetics business also grew 8%, with sales of roughly $4 billion; while the watches and jewelry group posted a 13% sales gain, at $1.2 billion.
The company, in a statement, attributed increased revenues in the fashion category to strong performance from its landmark Louis Vuitton brand, as well as "growing success" at Fendi, in addition to solid performances from Marc Jacobs, Givenchy and Loewe. The boost in perfumes and cosmetics came on the back of its popular Christian Dior fragrance line, particularly the J'Adore, Midnight Poison and Fahrenheit 32 scents. Strength in the watches and jewelry category was led by TAG Heuer, which the company said showed strong progress across all of its markets (for more on TAG's marketing efforts, see previous article, here).
According to statements by Antonio Belloni, deputy managing director, in a conference call, the fragrance departments at Givenchy and Kenzo will be rolling out "aggressive programs," including a renewed advertising campaign for the female market, and a forthcoming men's launch for both brands. No further details were provided.
And Yves Carcelle, president of the fashion and leather goods division, alluded to an evolution of the brand's current campaign with Mikhail Gorbachev . In the call, Carcelle mentioned a "Life After Gorbachev" initiative that would be unveiled "in a few weeks' time."
"For the first time, indeed, in the history of the luxury industry, there will be an audio-visual film which will be used both on TV, in theaters and on the Internet," Carcelle said during the call, describing the spot as "90-seconds of pure emotion." Hmmm... We'll definitely be staying tuned on that one.
Anecdotally, it would appear that Gorbachev campaign (as well as the spots featuring French Actress Catherine Deneuve, both pictured, above) has been successful. I've heard a vast majority of positive reaction to those spots, and, given the pending recession, that campaign isn't a bad strategy for the U.S. market. After all, only the super-moneyed, who are likely the age contemporaries of Gorbachev and Deneuve, will be able to afford those never-marked-down handbags if the economy really gets bad.