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Handbags hit new heights at Dublin's BT

Brown Thomas is selling more luxury handbags than it did during the boom in another sign that the economy is improving, with the weak euro drawing trade from abroad.

"The luxury accessory business now is bigger today in cash terms than it was in 2007 in this store," general manager Stephen Sealy told the Herald this week.

Mr Sealy acknowledges that the upward climb in sales "is partly because we've invested and given it the space".

However, the decision by luxury brands such as Bottega Veneta, Celine and the Prada group to invest in their own boutiques within the Grafton Street store speaks volumes about where handbags sit on the Irish spreadsheet.

resilient

In March, top French brands Chanel, Hermes and Louis Vuitton will expand their stores within the 'French quarter' of the Grafton Street store in order to acquire more retail space.

Sales of luxury bags and accessories have been "one of the more resilient sectors but when you invest like this, and open up the space, you turn on the growth", Mr Sealy said.

At the store's spring-summer fashion show last week, Shelly Corkery, fashion director at Brown Thomas, said there was growing rising interest in designer handbags.

"We could see the growth, and when you see the growth, you have to expand with the brand," Ms Corkery said. "Three years ago, when the economy was very difficult, we had the vision and actually made the decision to go ahead, knowing that a new accessories and beauty hall on the ground floor would cost €9m-€10m.

"We went out to the brands and got them all to buy in and commit and they had the confidence to invest in our store."


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