European luxury goods makers braced for tough new year

FLORENCE Tue Dec 4, 2012 1:16pm EST

FLORENCE Dec 4 (Reuters) - European luxury goods makers knocked back predictions of a boost to sales early next year, saying that economic gloom will continue to discourage shoppers from splashing out on designer dresses and leather handbags.

Consultancy Bain & Co had said that sales of luxury goods should pick up steam from the second quarter of 2013 as economic worries ease, but executives from some of the sector's top companies at a fashion summit in Florence said that growth is likely to continue to slow into the second half of next year.

"Markets are very volatile. We must keep a cool head and define our forecasts day by day," Michele Norsa, chief executive of Italian shoemaker Salvatore Ferragamo told reporters at the summit on Tuesday.

"The first part of the year will be slower. In the second part there will probably be a recovery. These are the signs we are receiving from all our markets."

European companies such as Ferragamo, French conglomerate LVMH and Italian peer Prada have escaped the worst effects of the economic downturn this year thanks to spending by wealthy tourists from Asia and Russia.

However, sales of Italian fashion in 2012 are expected to finish down 4.4 percent against 2011, the head of the country's fashion and textile body Sistema Moda Italia (SMI) said.

"Orders of goods to be delivered in the coming months have shrunk and I don't expect this trend to change soon," SMI chairman Michele Tronconi said at the summit.

Global sales of luxury goods are expected to grow 5 percent to 212 billion euros ($277 billion) this year, compared with increases of 13 percent last year and 8 percent in 2010, according to a report by Bain and Italy's luxury goods trade body Altagamma.

Analysts will be watching closely for an indication of the outlook for this year and beyond when Prada reports its third-quarter results on Thursday. ($1 = 0.7650 euros) (Editing by David Goodman)

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