Market Pulse / The Price of Fear
The Savigny Luxury index (“SLI”) lost ground again this month, dropping almost 3 percent, whilst the MSCI World Index (“MSCI”) gained nearly 1 percent. The aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels weighed heavily on the sector’s first quarter results as tourist flows to Europe dropped.
Results announcements have been more glum than glam this month. LVMH set the tone with flat growth in its fashion and leather goods division, driven by a slump in tourist flows to Paris post terror attacks, compounded by weakness in Asia ex-Japan. This was echoed by Prada, Burberry and privately-owned Versace, who also confirmed that 2016 was proving to be a challenge. Luxottica highlighted additional challenges in the USA, where tourist spend is still low. To add insult to injury, retail tax-refund services company Global Blue announced that spending by Chinese tourists fell 24 percent in March, leading to the worst ever monthly result for the luxury goods industry’s tourist sales.
There were some pockets of good news in leather goods. Hermès continued to impress at the top end. At the more affordable end, Coach seemed to be turning around and finally clawing back some market share, whilst privately-owned MCM, proving that logos still have a space in the market, disclosed 15 percent sales growth in 2015 and forecasted 20 percent growth for the current calendar year.
The game of musical chairs in creative direction continued this month with Hedi Slimane leaving Saint Laurent to be replaced by Anthony Vaccarello, who comes from Versace. The fashion calendar’s shake-up also continued with Gucci announcing that it would merge its menswear and womenswear shows in an effort to streamline its show efforts.
Corporate activity ground to a halt in April although at the time of print, Farfetch announced a further fundraise of $110 million purportedly at a $1.5 billion valuation. The funds will be used to expand the company’s technology platform and increase its presence in Asia.
- Estée Lauder continued its ascent, underpinned by favourable fundamentals for cosmetics vs higher ticket luxury goods items, with the share price gaining almost 2 percent on the month. The company also announced some key senior hires in digital and consumer engagement.
- Mulberry continued its journey down the road to recovery, with the share price gaining 1 percent in April.
- Burberry lost almost 13 percent of its value last month, driven by disappointing results, notably a 5 percent decrease in like-for-like retail sales. The company is overly exposed to China, the current Achilles heel of luxury.
- Ferragamo announced the departure of Michele Norsa, its long standing CEO, after having announced the departure of its Creative Director last month. The company’s share price ended the month 10 percent lower.
- Kering’s share price fell almost 5 percent following disappointing first quarter results in which Gucci’s recovery was seen to be taking longer, Bottega Veneta showed a decrease in sales and Balenciaga and Boucheron were suffering from the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks.
What to watch
The opening up of trade with Iran hit the oil markets like a tornado at the beginning of the year. The luxury sector is now coming to grips with a new market, which has more than 3 million high net worth individuals and could by some accounts be worth up to 2 percent of the global luxury market. Italy’s fashion industry signed a deal this month to facilitate trade with Iran. Given the state of other luxury markets in the world, Iran is a market opportunity worth serious consideration.