Which brand did COVID-19 affect most? Luxury houses’ results show turnaround in the 2nd half of 2020

Richard Lord, South China Morning Post

Posted at Dec 29 2020 05:03 PM

Which brand did COVID-19 affect most? Luxury houses’ results show turnaround in the 2nd half of 2020 1
A woman shops in a Louis Vuitton store in downtown Shanghai. Carlos Barria, Reuters/File

 

This has been a truly challenging year for all sorts of businesses – that hardly needs restating – and luxury brands are no exception. A pandemic is going to be tough for luxury goods when the global political and economic climate is unclear and there’s less disposable income around.

However, luxury products have the power to bring a jot of much needed happiness to people’s lives. This seems to have cushioned the businesses behind them, with green shoots of recovery emerging in recent months.

Here’s how some of the top luxury companies – including Louis Vuitton and Dior owner LVMH, Gucci’s mother ship Kering and watch giant Richemont – have fared financially this year.

Hermès

It was a positive third quarter for Hermès, with sales up by 7 per cent driven by 12 per cent growth in the brand’s stores, including a 29 per cent rise in Asia excluding Japan. Revenue to the end of September amounted to US$5.24 billion, down 14 per cent, after a fall of 24 per cent in the first half of the year, including 41 per cent in the second quarter. After an early drop, the company’s share price has risen consistently throughout the year, finishing on 859 euros (US$1,047), up from 671 euros.

LVMH

Like many, the tale of LVMH, the world’s largest luxury group, has been one of a dramatic drop followed by a gradual recovery. The company’s revenues stood at US$36.9 billion for the first three quarters of 2020 after being down 27 per cent year on year in the first half, but then only down 7 per cent for the third quarter, meaning a 21 per cent drop over the three quarters. (Then again, it did report record results in 2019 driven by the stellar performance of Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior.) LVMH’s share price began the year at 419 euros and ended it at 499 euros, receiving its biggest bump when the company’s acquisition of jeweller Tiffany & Co. was completed in October after nearly a year of wrangling.

Kering

LVMH’s rival Kering has a similar story: its revenue collapsed 29.6 per cent to US$6.56 billion in the first half, but was down just 4.3 per cent in the following quarter at US$4.52 billion, rather better than the market had been expecting. As a result its share price has only fallen slightly, from 598 euros at the start of the year to 558 euros now.

Sales at the company’s star brand Gucci are down about 12 per cent in the third quarter, but its performance still beat industry’s estimates considering the year’s uncertain economic climate. Sister brand Bottega Veneta is emerging as the unexpected star of the stable, growing its revenue by 17 per cent.

Richemont

At the third of the world’s great luxury conglomerates, Richemont – owner of Piaget, Chloe and Panerai – revenues were down 26 per cent for the first half of its financial year, which begins in April, to US$6.66 billion. Again, though, there have been more positive signs in recent months: from 47 per cent down during the first three months of that period to only 5 per cent during the second, with sales in China up 78 per cent over the last three months. Profit fell by 82 per cent to US$194 million, with the share price up slightly from 76 Swiss francs to 80 Swiss francs.

Prada

Any assessment of Prada’s performance is hampered by the fact that it hasn’t announced any results since the end of quarter two, when every brand was doing dismally. Revenues were down 40 per cent at that point at US$1.14 billion, retail sales down 32 per cent, and the company was running a loss of US$219 million. The market, however, has retained faith in the company’s ability to weather the storms. The company, which is listed in Hong Kong, started the year at HK$31 and was trading at the same price on November 4, since when it has shot up to HK$44.

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