VIENNA, AUSTRIA – MARCH 11: A Hermès white leather Kelly bag worn with a Hermès green colorful Twilly ribbon, on March 11, 2023 in Vienna, Austria.
Jeremy Moeller | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
Sales at Birkin bag maker Hermes rose 23% in the first quarter, above market expectations, as wealthy shoppers in China and Europe splurged on luxury fashion and accessories despite higher prices and global market turmoil.
Sales for the three months ending in March came to 3.38 billion euros ($3.74 billion). The increase of 23%, at constant exchange rates, beat a Visible Alpha consensus for 15% growth.
Hermes finance chief Eric du Halgouet told journalists store traffic in the United States, where rival LVMH earlier this week flagged softer demand for fashion, leather goods and jewellery, continued to rise.
“What we’re seeing in the United States is globally an increase in (store) traffic, the trends we’ve seen in April remain favorable, with, again, very dynamic traffic,” he said.
“We obviously remain vigilant as far as macro trends are concerned … but we have not seen a slowdown so far.”
Bernstein analyst Luca Solca said strong U.S. growth for the group, which posted a 19% increase in sales in the Americas region compared to 8% U.S. growth for LVMH, was particularly noteworthy.
“It confirms Hermes’s superior ability to plough through adverse demand trends, leveraging its high brand desirability and waiting lists for iconic products,” he said.
“Higher end exposure to richer consumers is probably also helping.”
Hermes raised prices by around 7% at the start of the year, a higher rate than its usual 2-3% annual increase.
In China, where Hermes was less affected than competitors by lockdowns that dented sales for many at the end of last year, revenues grew by 23% in the quarter. The Asia region excluding Japan generates nearly half of annual sales at the group.
Du Halgouet said tourist flows from mainland China had resumed to Hong Kong and Macau, boosting business there, as well as Singapore and Australia, and expected Chinese shoppers to return slowly to Europe towards the end of the year.
Stringent COVID lockdowns dampened luxury demand in China last year, when the market declined 10%, ending a five-year growth streak that saw the market double between 2019 and 2021, according to consultancy Bain.