Chinese shoppers abroad to boost Ferragamo's 2014 sales
* Leather group closed 2013 in line with expectations - CEO
* Shoe sales unaffected by Chinese gift crackdown - CEO
* Menswear catwalk show inspired by Italian lifestyle
MILAN, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Travelling Chinese shoppers snapping up leather goods will drive sales growth in 2014 at luxury group Salvatore Ferragamo, its chief executive said on Sunday, before it showed a menswear collection aimed at promoting its Italian heritage.
Michele Norsa said the group had closed 2013 in line with its expectations, but that it was important to wait until Chinese New Year in January to make forecasts for the year.
"Travelling keeps being a strong driver of growth," Norsa told reporters before the show at Milan men's fashion week, singling out Chinese tourists to Europe and the United States.
Chinese luxury consumers, who make up for almost one third of the market, are increasingly shopping abroad, partly thanks to simpler visa procedures in the United States and some European countries, according to consultancy Bain & Co.
A crackdown on giving luxury goods as gifts to win the favour of public officials in China has not affected Ferragamo's core business, Norsa said.
"Shoes are our core category and in fact a shoe is not a gift, shoes are something you buy for yourself," Norsa said.
The group founded as a women's footwear maker in Florence in 1927 reported net profit up 61 per cent in the first nine months of 2013.
Sunday's menswear show featured cashmere coats in blocks of beige, brown and blue, dark pinstriped suits and bomber jackets with patterned knitted sleeves.
Creative director Massimiliano Giornetti told Reuters before the catwalk show the collection had been inspired by the idea of home comforts such as furnishings and Italian food.
"The consumer of Ferragamo really loves the idea of a kind of Italian lifestyle...enjoying life," Giornetti said.
Attracting cash-rich tourists is especially important in Italy, where timid signs of economic recovery should also have a positive impact on consumption in 2014, Norsa said.
"We need to attract tourists and not only Chinese, of course, I'm thinking about the Russians, the Middle Easterns...the biggest potential is partially unexploited."
Norsa said he hoped the World Expo, a five-yearly international fair which will be held in Milan next year, could help boost Ferragamo's sales in Italy.
"In the second part of the year (2014) we could have Expo Milano generating business traffic," he said. (Reporting by Isla Binnie, editing by William Hardy)
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