2 Min Read
MILAN (Reuters Life!) - Fashion group Valentino said it expects 2009 to be a tough year in luxury retail but has seen resilience in quality labels such as Marlboro and Hugo Boss.
Chief Executive Officer Stefano Sassi told Corriere della Sera newspaper that the luxury firm has seen a recovery in trade since the middle of April.
"In the first quarter we lost a bit in terms of turnover and profitability, but from the middle of April, we are seeing a recovery," he said in an interview published in the newspaper's CorriereEconomia business section on Monday.
This year "will be more difficult" than 2008, he added. The design house, which includes Valentino and Hugo Boss labels as well as the license for Marlboro clothing, will focus on controlling costs.
"This crisis has mostly hit luxury, while a line like Marlboro for example is holding at last year's levels and even Hugo Boss is standing its ground," Sassi said.
"But April and May are giving very encouraging signals for Valentino as well," he added.
Valentino Fashion Group, which is controlled by private equity group Permira, increased turnover 3 percent in 2008 to 2.2 billion euros ($3.08 billion) while core profit slipped to 320.4 million euros from 330.3 million euros.
Valentino's founder, Valentino Garavani, retired in January 2008 after heading the house for nearly half a century and making its trademark red evening gowns regulars on the red carpets at the Oscars, Cannes film festival and elsewhere.
His successor, Alessandra Facchinetti, lasted less than a year before leaving "embittered." She was replaced by in-house team Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli.
Sassi said Valentino had already sold 30 percent of its pre-collections for autumn/winter 2009 -- "a really, really good result considering ... we are selling the collection at full price."
(Reporting by Jo Winterbottom, editing by Paul Casciato)