Printemps CEO confident in Christmas, luxury focus

Fri Nov 13, 2009 12:55pm EST
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By Lionel Laurent

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Printemps' flagship Paris department store says it is set to reap the benefit of a $105 million refurbishment and a new luxury strategy as it kicks off the Christmas season.

The retail chain's chief executive, Paolo de Cesare, told Reuters on Thursday he was "optimistic" about holiday trading at a time when French consumers are still showing signs of caution.

"Summer was difficult, but I see now customers coming back," said de Cesare. "In the end there is the spending power, and consumers are ready to invest where they find the right opportunity."

De Cesare said a week of sales in mid-November had brought in 30 percent revenue growth when compared to the same period a year ago. He added the discounts were "very targeted" and would not affect holiday trading or bigger January sales.

New data on Friday showed the French economy grew by 0.3 percent in the third quarter of 2009, with job losses slowing while consumer spending stabilized.

The holiday season is still expected to be subdued, according to several analysts, citing rising unemployment and the strong euro's negative impact on tourism flows.

"Although consumption is not plummeting like some people feared, it's still really weak when compared to historical patterns," said Diego Iscaro, an economist at IHS Global Insight.

LUXURY FOCUS   Continued...

<p>Paolo de Cesare of Italy, CEO of Printemps department store, poses after an interview with Reuters in Paris November 12, 2009. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier</p>