Louis Vuitton brushes off financial gloom
Sydney - Louis Vuitton chief executive Yves Carcelle said on Friday that the luxury brand was ready to withstand financial turmoil, with demand for its products on the rise even amid global uncertainty.
Speaking at the opening of the firm's new state-of-the-art Sydney showcase store, Carcelle said the first nine months of 2011 were kind to his industry, as if the luxury sector were in a protective bubble outside market turmoil.
"What you see, what you hear in the news everywhere is more that the states are close to bankrupt than the individual," he said at a press conference to mark store's opening, attended by Hollywood star Cate Blanchett.
Despite the precarious financial position of some European states, where unemployment was rising and sovereign debt has forced leadership changes, he said that rich people and those with jobs were not seeing their incomes fall.
"It looks like today customers say, 'Oh, we don't know what tomorrow will be done. Geez, if I see a nice pair of shoes, nice bag, nice suit or dress that will not change completely my future.
"'Maybe I don't buy the big apartment I was dreaming of, or increase the size of my boat, but I can afford a pair of shoes.'"
Carcelle said that luxury customers were ready to spend and were increasingly demanding more sophisticated and personalised products.
He said that planning for the new Sydney store, only the second in the world to offer made-to-measure shoes for men and which will also offer a service allowing customers to design a unique handbag, began in July 2009.
"I remind you, in 2009, when most of the industry was down, we published double digit growth worldwide. Again in 2010," he said.
He said Louis Vuitton, founded in Paris in 1854, planned for the long term and would never devise a strategy simply to counter short-term problems.
"Yes, I think that one day or another we will have to pay, at least in Europe or in the (United) States for the mismanagement of the states," he said.
"It's clear that the debts that our countries have accumulated one day or another will be translated into higher taxes.
"But that's tomorrow, let's enjoy today," he joked.
Louis Vuitton has been in Australia for 25 years but the new Sydney store, one of only 13 "maison" outlets around the world - offering a more elaborate experience such as specially commissioned work by local artists - was testament to the strength of the domestic market, he added.
"People in Europe don't realise that the Australian clientele is part of the top 10 of the world," Carcelle said.
"You are far away from the mind sometimes of headquarters in Europe, but you represent a significant market."