PARIS (Reuters) – The Chinese are still snapping up Birkin bags and rare Cognacs, boosting sales for European luxury goods companies Hermes and Remy Cointreau and calming fears that demand may be cooling.
Luxury goods companies have become increasingly dependent on China as European customers pull back, and they are anxiously watching for any sign that demand in the world’s second largest economy is slowing.
Those fears abated on Thursday when French spirits group Remy Cointreau beat forecasts with a 24.4 percent rise in first quarter sales, driven by robust demand for its cognac in Asia and the United States.
Similarly, Hermes reported a 13.4 percent rise in second quarter sales supported by strong growth in the Asia Pacific region outside of Japan, which rose 26.9 percent.
“We see no slowdown in China,” Hermes Chief Executive Patrick Thomas said in a phone interview.
Hermes derives 32 percent of its sales from Asia Pacific excluding Japan, making it one of the company’s most important markets.
N), but robust sales in Russia and other emerging markets quickly filled the gap during the first half of this year, a senior company executive told Reuters.
Growth in Asia helped offset slower growth in France and the US”The good surprise is Asia, with a net acceleration despite a difficult (strong) base of comparison.”.
Said Thomas Mesmin, a Paris based analyst covering Hermes for CA Chevreaux.
CHINA STRONGThe Asia Pacific region, mainly driven by China, is the fastest growing luxury market in the world.
By 2014 it couldbecome the second largest luxury market, after Europe, accordingto research from consulting firm Bain.
But China’s growth rate slowed for a sixth successive quarter in the period to end June, to its slackest pace in more than three years.
Hermes has been particularly proactive in going after the Chinese customer who covets the French company’s iconic leather handbags and printed silk scarves, but also values an Asian aesthetic.
To capture those customers it owns a major stake Shang Xia, a Chinese luxury brand founded in 2008 that specializes in dark wood furniture and porcelain bowls.
Remy Cointreau has also targeted the wealthy Chinese buyer, marketing its Louis XIII cognac, which can sell for around 2,000 euros ($2,500) a bottle.
Asia is Remy’s top selling region, representing 62 percent of the group’s cognac sales.
Remy Chief Financial Officer Frederic Pflanz reassured analysts during a call on Thursday that demand remained strong.
Remy Cointreau makes 38 percent of sales in the buoyant Asia and Pacific region.
“For our market in China we have not seen to date any slowdown. There is continued consumer enthusiasm for our high end products,” he said.
Pflanz said Remy’s cognac was also benefiting from strong demand from customers in Japan and Southeast Asia.
Most notably, the company struggled in India and Southeast Asia, both key regions of growth for global auto makers.
He played down analysts concern about the possible impact of a Chinese government plan to ban civil servants from using government funds to purchase luxury goods.
Both companies reported reasonably strong demand in their home European market, where the economic crisis continues to engulf the continent.
The maker of Remy Martin cognac, Cointreau liqueur and Mount Gay Rum said it was continuing to monitor the economic situation in Europe closely but was confident of generating “steady and profitable growth” in the financial year to March 2013.
Hermes reported strong growth in Europe, and kept to its 2012 forecast, but noted that French sales were slightly weak in the quarter and the production of some leather goods had been impeded in May by a number of public holidays.
Remy Cointreu SA shares were up 4.7 percent at 1150 GMT (7.50 a.m EDT) , while rival spirits group Pernod Ricard added 3.4 percent.
Last week Britain’s Burberry reported a decline in first quarter sales growth due in part to a slowdown in Asia.
Asia is a key revenue driverfor the Dutch brewer at a time of sluggish growth in theAmericas and declining sales in its home market of WesternEurope.
Analysts will be looking to French luxury powerhouse LVMH, which has previously sounded a note of caution on Chinese sales, to see whether it has seen a sales slowdown in Asia.
(Reporting by Nina Sovich; Additional reporting by Pascale Denis; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle).
Alicia Yarnold is a fashion journalist based in San Francisco, California. Alicia has a passion for fashion stories and loves writing about fashion news and fashion opinions that matters most to its audience. Alicia spends a lot of time discovering and researching latest fashion industry news stories in order to make sure the latest and greatest stories are brought to you first on Stylerchic.com.