Business World

Sunday 25 February 2018

Europe's luxury goods market feeling the pinch as even the rouble-hit oligarchs aren't spending

The spend by Russians has gotten smaller and smaller as the currency crisis bites at home, hitting European retailers
The spend by Russians has gotten smaller and smaller as the currency crisis bites at home, hitting European retailers

Astrid Wendlandt and Pascale Denis

Spending by Russian tourists abroad has plunged, diving 51pc in January after falling 44pc in December because of the rouble's freefall, according to figures released by tax-refund company Global Blue.

The rouble, which lost 40pc against the euro last year, has crippled demand from Russians for luxury goods, and many labels are growing concerned the trend could last, with no end in sight for the conflict in Ukraine.

Several luxury brands, particularly Italian brands such as fashion label Salvatore Ferragamo, have been severely hit by the Russian economic crisis.

Last week, Jean-Francois Palus, No 2 at Gucci owner Kering, said the group's Italian tailor Brioni had witnessed a significant drop in sales to Russian tourists, adding that it looked as though "Russia has entered into a severe recession".

Russians, who until last year ranked second after the Chinese by spending, make up 5pc-7pc of the total luxury goods market.

"The Russian luxury market is made by relatively few consumers with very high discretionary spending power, as epitomised by the 'Russian oligarch'," said Luca Solca, a luxury goods analyst at Exane BNP Paribas.

Global Blue said Russian spending had been in decline for more than a year, having dropped nearly 17pc in 2014.

Broker Barclays said in a note published on Friday that the trend reflected "the weakness of the rouble and ratcheting up of international sanctions against Russia".

Global Blue said Chinese spending rose 34pc in January after a 49pc jump in December, however. The 2014 increase was 18.3pc.

Many Chinese tourists come to Europe to buy luxury goods such as €700 Louis Vuitton handbags, which can be 40pc cheaper than in places such as Hong Kong.

However, a growing number of Chinese now also shop in Korea, Singapore and Japan.

In Europe, where tourist spending can account for over half of sales at luxury brands like Cartier in cities such as Paris, London and Milan, total tourist spending fell 1.5pc in January, Global Blue said.

Irish Independent

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