Summit News

Cartier says China stores could double in 4 years

BEIJING (Reuters) - China could become Cartier’s largest market within four years as it aims to double the number of stores on the mainland, Bernard Fornas, president and chief executive of Cartier, said on Thursday at the China Investment Summit.

He said the worst of the financial crisis was likely behind the luxury jewelry firm, as strong demand in China and the Middle East is compensating for weakness in traditional strongholds Japan and the United States.

“In terms of the number of boutiques, in the long term will be something like 55 to 60 within four or five years,” said Fornas.

Cartier is part of Swiss luxury group Richemont CFR.VX, the world's third largest luxury goods group behind LVMH LVMH.PA and Hermes HRMS.PA.

The firm currently has 32 boutiques in 18 cities, making it Cartier’s second largest market after Japan.

But the good news is neutralized by continued softness in Japan and the United States, the watchmaker’s traditional strongholds which are both struggling with weak consumer demand.

“My best guess would be three to four years. China could become our first region in the world,” he said, pointing to Cartier’s expansion into second-tier cities such as Tianjin, a northern port city near Beijing.

Fornas said Cartier was already the No.1 luxury brand in China.

Parent Richemont initiated a hiring freeze and job cuts to help it overcome the crisis, which Fornas said was mostly in the past. “The worst, I think, is hopefully behind us.”

Reporting by Michael Wei; Writing by Kirby Chien; Editing by Ken Wills