Shoes, bags prove staying power in luxury crisis

Fri Oct 9, 2009 8:43am EDT
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By Sophie Hardach

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - At the height of the luxury goods boom, launching a single successful "it" bag was enough to substantially alter a company's profit outlook.

Over the past week at the Paris fashion shows, buyers, designers and executives were hoping the same kind of accessories magic would help luxury firms weather the economic downturn.

"Yes there is the crisis, but it's always an opportunity for some brands. We're going to have a record year and record profit," Sebastian Manes, director of accessories at Selfridges&Co, told Reuters at the Vivienne Westwood show.

He said the British department store had seen double-digit growth in handbag sales compared to last year, diversifying its buying strategy as the craze for celebrity-endorsed "it" handbags faded.

Whereas before, there would be a key bag for each designer, Manes said the store now offered a broader range that changed often and included edgier brands such as Martin Margiela, Westwood and Dries Van Noten.

"We're coming to Paris with plenty of cash in our pockets," he added.

Luxury goods companies have seen their sales hammered by the downturn, but accessories have proven relatively resilient as shoppers use them to freshen last year's recycled wardrobe.

"There's less demand for evening wear, for ceremonies, but there's more demand for bags, shoes and foulards because people use it to renew their look," said Simone Rondelli, co-owner of the Supperclub boutique in Bologna, Italy.   Continued...

<p>A model presents a creation by U.S. designer Marc Jacobs as part of his Spring/Summer 2010 women's collection for French fashion house Louis Vuitton during Paris Fashion Week October 7, 2009. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier</p>