After Apple, Louis Vuitton runs into great wall of China
If Chinese consumers are cutting back on iPhones, Louis Vuitton handbags could be next
Hong Kong/Paris: After Apple Inc.’s shock profit warning, investors were quick to make the connection: if Chinese consumers are cutting back on iPhones, Louis Vuitton handbags could be next.
Apple’s sales revision cascaded through global markets, hitting suppliers and rivals, but also a raft of luxury goods companies that rely on the same clientele that likes to splurge on Apple’s latest products. Hong Kong-listed Prada SpA, Gucci-parent Kering SA, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Burberry Group Plc and Richemont, the parent of jeweller Cartier, all declined in the wake of Apple’s shortfall.
“It’s going to become significantly more challenging to do well in China because the market is tightening up,” said David Roth, chief executive of WPP Plc’s ‘The Store’ global retail practice. “This is a challenging signal that people need to button down and understand China better and prepare.”
Apple cut its quarterly revenue outlook to $84 billion from as much as $93 billion, blaming it in part on a pullback in demand within China. That set off warning bells throughout the luxury industry, as Chinese consumers account for about 30% of the $1 trillion in luxury-goods spending worldwide, according to Euromonitor International.
Prada dropped as much as 3.6% in Hong Kong on Friday. In Europe on Thursday, Kering SA fell 5.5%, while LVMH dropped 3.8% and Burberry tumbled 5.9%.
For years, companies from LVMH to Tiffany & Co. have targeted China’s wealthy tourists, who sought out pricey handbags, jewelry and other luxury items while on vacation in Paris to Dubai. Investors are worried that sliding yuan, China’s trade war-hit economy and a government crackdown on overseas purchases could dent demand.
Richemont, which lost 2.8%, has already been feeling the heat. The Swiss watch and jewelry-goods maker signalled in November that Chinese sales growth has slowed.
Others have maintained a more bullish tone, with both LVMH and Kering citing robust China sales in October and saying they welcome a shift to domestic sales.
A key test for retailers will come with China’s celebration of the Year of the Pig, which begins on 5 February. The week-long Chinese New Year holiday is traditionally a major occasion for shoppers from China to splurge. About two-thirds of those sales take place outside the country as tourists open their wallets while travelling abroad, taking advantage of better selection and cheaper prices than available at home.
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