Are luxury consumers in the U.S. cutting back on spending? It depends on who’s doing the talking.
Luxury consumers in the U.S. cut back their level of luxury spending during the second quarter of 2012 by 8.2 percent from first quarter, according to a recent Luxury Consumption Index survey from Unity Marketing. The decline in spending was even more pronounced when comparing year-over-year, down nearly 27 percent.
The survey for the April to June period shows that “luxury consumers got nervous about their financial status,” said Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, which runs the quarterly survey of affluent Americans. “The up and down trajectory of the LCI that we've seen over the past year measures continued uncertainty among affluent consumers who make up the heavy lifters in the overall consumer economy.”
Not so fast. The largest luxury brand conglomerates, particularly those that deal in the “hard luxuries” (jewellery and watches), are continuing to post spectacular results with strong growth in all of their markets, including the U.S.
The latest example is Geneva-based Richemont, which issued a statement saying that it expects first half gross and net profits to rise between 20 and 40 percent, year-over-year, prior to the normal release of its sales and profit reports for the first half of the year.
Richemont—whose brands include Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Montblanc and Vacheron Constantin—was required by the Swiss stock exchange to issue the statement because the increase in profit was far greater than it had forecasted.
Richemont said that sales for the four months ended in July rose 24 percent on a reported basis and 13 percent on a constant-exchange basis.
Montblanc boutique in Hamburg. The German luxury brand is owned by Richemont.
Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco
This is the latest financial report revealing the resiliency and strength in hard luxuries. Others include:
* Paris-based LVMH reported revenue growth of 26 percent, year-over-year, to $16 billion for the first half of 2012. Group profit rose 28 percent to $2 billion. The luxury group, whose jewellery and watch brands include Tag Heuer, Hublot and Bulgari, acquired in June 2011, reported that total jewellery and watch sales rose 113 percent to $1.6 billion, with Bulgari's revenue now included. Organic growth was 13 percent.
* Swatch Group, the world’s largest watch company, said its watch and jewellery sales for the first half of 2012 increased 16.7 percent to $3.42 billion, year-over-year. The company owns 19 watch and jewelry brands in all market segments, including Swatch, Breguet and Longines.
So, is luxury spending in the U.S. in decline? It’s difficult to say but it appears that the top brands continue to attract the top consumers. For the rest, I’m not so sure.
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