Oct 29, 2008
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Global luxury market takes hit from financial crisis

Oct 29, 2008

WASHINGTON, Oct 29, 2008 (AFP) - Even the wealthiest consumers are cutting spending in the face of the global economic turmoil, which will likely push the worldwide luxury retail market into recession in 2009, a survey showed Wednesday, October 29th.

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The high-end market, once thought immune to economic trends, has begun to feel the impact of the worldwide economic slowdown, according to the survey by Bain & Co. commissioned by Altagamma, the Italian association of Italian luxury goods companies.

The study finds that the growth of global luxury goods sales will slow sharply, to grow 3.0 percent in 2008 to 175 billion euros (220 billion dollars).

The slower growth rate stands in stark contrast to the 9.0 percent growth in 2006 and the 6.5 percent advance in 2007.

For 2009, luxury faces its first recession in six years, with a decline in overall sales of as much as 7.0 percent based on a constant exchange rate, the report showed.

But the report authors said currency fluctuations may have a positive impact on luxury market growth.

"The impact of the financial crisis will bring some sectors into a recession," said Claudia D'Arpizio, a Bain partner based in Milan and lead author of the study.

"How much and how long depends in part on how companies react. The most resilient will be those with strong international and diversified brands."

According to the report, rising spending by wealthy consumers in emerging markets like Brazil, Russia, China and India will help offset weakness in the major industrialized countries.

It projects a jump of 20 to 35 percent in luxury spending in the big emerging economies in the next five years.

But so-called "mature markets" still account for nearly 80 percent of worldwide luxury sales, according to Bain, and these are showing signs of stress.

According to the report, Japan's luxury market, which accounts for 12 percent of the global total, is already in a luxury goods recession, decreasing by two percent in 2007 and by seven percent in 2008, with the drop in the yen against the euro hurting sales.

Europe remains the leading market with 38 percent of the total after 10 percent growth in 2007. Growth is expected to slow to 5.0 eprcent in 2008, with much of that coming from Eastern Europe.

In the Americas, which saw 4.0 percent growth in luxury sales in 2007, no growth is expected in 2008, the first year of stagnation since spending retreated after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States.

The US luxury market has been hurt by the subprime real estate meltdown and the surge in the euro earlier this year.

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