LVMH: fashion and leather goods soar in Q3 despite difficult context
Despite an increasingly complex and fluctuating market, LVMH is staying the course. The number one in luxury goods has just closed a record third quarter, driven by its most profitable "fashion & leather goods" division, which achieved 9.68 billion euros between July and September 2022 with an organic increase of 22%, while over nine months it recorded a growth in sales of 24%, to 27.8 billion euros. An increase of 31% at current exchange rates. The latter has managed to cope with a geographical situation that has changed recently with a slowdown in the American market, but also with increased economic difficulties between recession, price increases, shortages of raw materials and geopolitical tensions.
This is a context that is pushing the group to be more cautious about its annual objectives, as CFO Jean-Jacques Guiony explained on Tuesday evening during a conference call with analysts: "Frankly, 2022 has not been short on surprises, good or bad".
While the rise in the dollar has been positive, the company is also facing headwinds such as "the situation in Russia or the management of the pandemic in China".
"We are doing our best to develop our brands and make the most of the year in conditions that are obviously different from those we had in mind a year ago when we drew up the budgets for 2022," he said.
Looking closely at the quarterly figures, LVMH seems to have managed to do better than expected. The "fashion & leather goods" division accelerated the pace in the third quarter to an increase of 22% (the previous quarter's growth was 19%), led once again by the group's leader, Christian Dior, which saw sales increase in all categories and whose renovated boutique at 30 Avenue Montaigne has become "a very popular destination", closely followed by Louis Vuitton, which delivered "an excellent performance". Celine also experienced very strong growth, as did Loewe. Loro Piana continues to enjoy good momentum, as does Fendi, according to a company statement.
Over the first nine months of the year, the luxury giant progressed in all regions, but it saw the share of its sales in Asia, excluding Japan, decrease from 36% on September 30 2021, to 32% a year later, with a still weak growth of 2%, due to the restrictions that persist in several cities in China. Over the last three months alone, the situation is improving with a 6% increase in sales, compared to an 8% decline in the second quarter.
Nevertheless, Guiony again called for caution concerning the Chinese market still penalised by health restrictions. "We can't really talk about a recovery in China. Things are better than they were in the second quarter, that's for sure, but they are not back to normal. We still have lockdowns here and there, supply chain disruptions and the level of traffic in shops across the country is nowhere near what it was in 2019. We are not operating under normal conditions."
In China, sales continue to be driven mainly by the online channel, while in other markets in-store sales have taken over. However, e-commerce continues to record double-digit increases, accounting for 13% of total sales.
Another geographical change is that recorded in recent months in North America, which has seen its momentum slow down with organic growth of 11% in the third quarter compared to 22% in the second quarter (up 19% over nine months), with this market accounting for 26% of total sales.
"A large number of American buyers have moved to Europe, where they are benefiting from a strong dollar, with a particularly positive impact on fashion and leather goods," explained Guiony, who rules out "drastic measures" in the short term concerning a possible price increase in Europe for the group's products, which are currently cheaper than in the United States. "Currencies always fluctuate with ups and downs. There is nothing we can do about it."
At the same time, the manager emphasises the good results that continue to be guaranteed by local customers in Europe, "with significant progress especially in the United Kingdom and Germany". In fact, in Europe outside France, which currently accounts for 16% of total turnover compared to 15% a year earlier, LVMH saw its sales jump by 36% in the third quarter (up 48% in the second quarter, up 43% over nine months).
For the end of the year, the group remains confident. In this respect, Guiony is cautious about the notion of an imminent crisis, which everyone is talking about. "I wouldn't call it a recession, but a pre-announced recession. We are in a situation where the recession has not yet fully materialised," he noted, before concluding, "The luxury industry is not immune to recession or economic shocks, we have seen that in the past, but we have also seen that when it happens, it doesn't last long and the strongest brands come out even stronger."
However, the fourth quarter is likely to be much more complicated than the third, with the European market expected to stagnate between soaring energy costs, falling purchasing power and a likely slowdown in tourism.
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