France's Hermes says not feeling any slowdown

PARIS Sun Sep 30, 2012 1:55pm EDT

PARIS (Reuters) - Hermes (HRMS.PA) enjoyed healthy sales growth in the summer and September, contrasting with other luxury brands such as Burberry (BRBY.L) and Tiffany & Co (TIF.N) which have warned of deteriorating trading conditions.

The upbeat trading update on Sunday is likely to cement the view that the global luxury market is becoming increasingly segmented with some brands such as Hermes, Prada, Dior, Balenciaga feeling no pain while others, more vulnerable, are starting to suffer.

"We have not seen any inflexion of any kind in our sales," Hermes Chief Executive Patrick Thomas told Reuters after the brand's presentation of its next spring/summer collection .

"Therefore our targets for the year remain unchanged."

Hermes is known for its 15,000 euro Kelly and Birkin leather bags and its 400-euro silk scarves.

Dior Chief Executive Sidney Toledano on Friday said sales trends remained positive.

Many luxury brands, such as Tiffany and Burberry, blame an economic slowdown in China and Beijing's crackdown on gift-giving for their souring fortunes after having heavily invested opening flagship stores there.

Chinese customers, at home and abroad, are the biggest buyers for many well-established luxury brands such as Gucci (PRTP.PA) and Louis Vuitton (LVMH.PA).

But luxury analysts also noticed changes in luxury spending patterns which show a rise in purchases of discreet, connoisseur luxury products and a drop in money spent on flashy, logo-embossed items.

"Chinese customers are becoming increasingly sophisticated very fast," Thomas said.

"Before, they wanted ostentatious items, now they want quality objects. The future of the luxury market lies in products which demonstrate genuine craftsmanship."

Thomas was speaking after the brand's fashion show held in the Jeu de Paume museum in central Paris.

Ex-Lacoste designer Christophe Lemaire, presented his fourth ready-to-wear collection for Hermes, which featured simple, minimalist ample white tunics, draped exotic printed silk suits and safari-inspired beige and ochre raincoats and jackets.

The collection seemed this year more eclectic than in the past, critics said, with oversized jackets on extra small shorts, and leather dresses in bright colors such as royal blue or emerald green which paid tribute to the brand's tradition of leather craftsmanship.

(This story is refiled to remove erroneous on Sunday in first paragraph)

(Reporting by Astrid Wendlandt; editing by Patrick Graham)

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