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26-07-2012
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Is Bubble About to Burst for Luxury Retailers?
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BY Peter Evans


"The luxury bubble is about to burst," is a statement wary investors and analysts have been making since the financial crisis erupted in 2008, only to be proved wrong.

Now, they might have a point.

Luxury retailers have been relatively immune to the world-wide economic downturn in recent years, with sales driven by gains in emerging markets and tourists in Europe.

Asia, and in particular China, has been the greatest engine for growth as the wealthy splash out on luxury goods. China has 2.7 million high-net-worth individuals with assets of more than six million yuan, or just under $1 million, and 63,500 people worth more than 100 million yuan, according to the Shanghai-based wealth research firm Hurun Report. But evidence is starting to mount that the Asia-driven luxury engine could be starting to splutter.

"If you look at all the data, especially out of China, everything is decelerating," said Stacey Widlitz, president of U.S.-based consultancy firm SW Retail Advisors. "The comparisons [on a year earlier] are difficult, the trajectory is concerning. The question is now, does it get worse?"

Burberry BRBY.LN +0.24% PLC, one of the major players in the luxury sector, showed signs last week that it is beginning to feel the effects of the weakening global economy, as total sales growth slowed to 11% in the first quarter from 34% in the year-ago period at constant currencies. The most striking slowdown was in its Asian-Pacific region.

The figures sent Burberry's shares down more than 7% and sparked concerns that the U.K. company's peers—including France's LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA MC.FR +1.30% and Italian fashion house Prada SpA 1913.HK -2.70% —could also be caught in the cross-hairs as they report quarterly results in the coming weeks.

"The broader Asian picture is troubling," said Rahul Sharma, managing director of retail analysts Neev Capital, who said Burberry fell short of analyst expectations for first-quarter revenue. It's disappointing that Burberry, the first of the luxury retailers to report numbers in this period, starts off with a miss."

In the last 12 months, Burberry's shares have dropped nearly 22%. In the same period, LVMH shares have fallen 12% and fellow French luxury firm Hermes International RMS.FR -0.63% SCA is nearly 7% lower.

Of the major European luxury brands, only Prada has shown a modest increase—up around 3%—over the year. Although most analysts still see value in Burberry and retain "buy" ratings, many have cut profit forecasts over concerns of a Chinese slowdown. This despite companies posting double-digit growth in the region., statistics other sectors would kill for.

Burberry's first-quarter figures showed growth of 18% in the Asian-Pacific region, down from 67% on year. Within that, sales growth in China slowed to the "mid-teens" from 30%, according to Stacey Cartwright, the firm's finance director.

Goldman Sachs GS +1.58% removed Burberry from its "conviction buy" list, its checklist of strongly outperforming stocks, and analysts at Bank of America BAC +0.43% Merrill Lynch said the company was unlikely to meet its target of 15% earnings per share growth in 2012-13.

Bethany Hocking, an analyst at Investec Securities, conceded that Burberry had "a number of self-help levers to pull" in China, including its vast store network, but downgraded her profit forecasts for fiscal 2013 and 2014 by 2% and 3%, respectively. China's second-quarter gross domestic product growth slowed to 7.6% from a year ago, down from 8.1% growth in the first quarter.

The International Monetary Fund on Monday issued a warning on China's economic growth this year and next. "In the medium term, there are tail risks of a hard landing in China," it said.

Ms. Widlitz said the Chinese slowdown would filter through to the balance sheets of all global luxury brands. "You have to put the pieces of the puzzle together and say that the luxury sector is running out of answers." She said China could no longer be relied upon to provide strong growth.

She also said high-growth areas such as Brazil and India wouldn't be enough to compensate for shortfalls in China, the U.S. and Europe: "Companies are starting to ask: Where do we point to for growth? Who's going to save us now?"

With LVMH and fashion and accessories brand Hermes set to report results in the next two weeks, it will soon become clear whether Burberry's cooling growth is the beginning of a fashion statement.
Wall Street Journal

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30-07-2012
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Power to the 99%
 
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If the bubble does burst, isn't that a good thing for us as consumers?

I think we did see a real correction following 2008 in many ways ... if things are tough in luxury retail, that may be bad news for people who want to work in fashion, but I think it's largely good news for those who want to buy it.

The challenge as I see it is that when open to buy tightens, you have to become very alert as a shopper, and it becomes increasingly important (following the season when the correction occurs) to buy quickly when you really want something. But ... that's pretty much always true.

On the bright side, value improves, and designers/buyers are increasingly aware they need to offer something useful, exciting, or both.

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31-07-2012
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i'm not sure it would be good for consumers. it would just push more production overseas.

and i think a lot of brands have slashed production in the last several years. there arent racks and racks of sale items these days.

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31-07-2012
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^ What production isn't overseas already? It seems like the lines made domestically are those like Alaia, Bottega, Brunello Cucinelli, etc.--those whose values and/or brand identity require them to do so. Mostly values I suppose ...

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02-08-2012
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luxury brands are the source of inspiration (ok copying ) for the mass clothing retailers, who dress the most of the world.

When you don't have have elite, you don't have nothing.....
taking over the Haute couture fashion houses, by business owners who don't have any clue in art, but only know how to make more money, taking it's price.

And of course the 2008 economical collapse, is just speeding up these processes even more.

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