Hermes Posts 1st Quarter Sales Boost

Paris–Hermès International posted first quarter sales Thursday that were the largest of any luxurygoods quarterly reports so far. Sales increased 18.5% to $649.3 million with Hermès’ own stores recording “particularly robust” growth of 26%, driven by strong performance across all sectors. Wholesale revenues, which were hit by distributor de-stocking last year, rose 4%.

Quarterly sales rose 15% in France and Europe, while the Americas increased 25% after “the rebound initiated in the fourth quarter of 2009 continued,” the company says. Growth was spurred by the success of the first Hermès store dedicated to men on Madison Avenue in New York which opened in February. The group’s stores in Asia saw sales rise 47% except for Japan which dropped 2%.

Classic Accessories in a Recession

The company’s silks and textiles grew 17% driven by the new women’s silk collections, while sales advanced by 19% for ready-to-wear and fashion accessories. Sales of Hermès watches increased 39% in the quarter following a major slump that the brand and other luxury watchmakers experienced last year. The company’s sales were helped, however, by sustained demand for its handbags and scarves, more classic less flashy choices during the Great Recession, according to analysts.

Hermès says it will continue to expand in 2010, although its report cautioned: “First-quarter sales growth cannot be extrapolated to the full year owing to the more favorable basis of comparison with the same year-ago period and to persistent economic uncertainties.”

The Hermès reports follows reports from other luxurygoods brands last month that appeared to show a rebound in the luxury sector: LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton reported an 8% increase in first-quarter sales, excluding currency shifts, while PPR Gucci Group had a 4.7% gain.

There are plans to open and renovate around 20 Hermès doors, including the new store on rue de Sèvres in Paris by year’s end.

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