UPDATE 2-Van Cleef to double shops in China-CEO

Mon Mar 15, 2010 11:09am EDT

* To open same number of stores in 2010 as in 2009

* To double number of shops in mainland China

(Adds quotes, details)

By Astrid Wendlandt and Pascale Denis

PARIS, March 15 (Reuters) - French jeweller Van Cleef & Arpels will double the number of its boutiques in mainland China this year as the fast-growing market is "a priority", its head said on Monday.

Van Cleef & Arpels, part of the Richemont Group (CFR.VX), is planning to open seven shops in total this year, the same number as in 2009, including four in mainland China and three in the Middle East, Chief Executive Stanislas De Quercize told Reuters on the fringes of luxury and creativity summit in Paris.

"We have four boutiques in mainland China, we will have eight," Quercize he said.

China is widely regarded as the most powerful engine of growth for the global luxury goods industry, which posted a slump of 8 percent in worldwide sales in 2009. They are expected to rise by around 1 percent this year.

Referring to China, Quercize said "this is a priority number one."

He said the jeweller has boosted its presence online in China through social networks in mandarin such as Facebook and Twitter.

He said the jeweller planned to open three boutiques in the Middle East including one in Kuwait, one in Qatar and one in Bahrain, adding the jeweller would expand some shops in the United States this year.

Looking back, Quercize said Van Cleef & Arpels had been hit by the crisis, as many other jewellers. "It is true that our workshops have suffered. Everybody has seen a drop in orders," he said.

He declined to comment on the jeweller's sales since the beginning of the year.

Anne-Marie Idrac, France's trade minster, opened the luxury and creativity summit earlier on Monday by saying that French luxury exports had dropped 13 percent in 2009 while overall exports from the country had fallen 17 percent.

Idrac estimated that France's share of the global luxury market stood at around 10-11 percent.

(Editing by David Cowell)

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