"For the moment, we're optimistic for 2008," said Mireille Maury, the firm's managing director of finance and administration. "The second half [of 2007] was better than the first. "We see no signs of slowdown, including at our [New York] Wall Street store," which opened last June.
Maury said January sales continued at the same strong pace, boding well for the sector amidst an unsettled economic climate. LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and PPR also have reported healthy growth for luxury and downplayed the impact of any U.S. slowdown.
On Thursday, Hermès set an objective of 10 percent growth at constant exchange for 2008.
Reported sales in the fourth quarter reflect a strong negative currency impact, falling 5.8 percent in Japan. Restated at constant exchange and on a like-for-like basis, Japan improved 2.1 percent.
The Americas were robust, with reported sales up 11.7 percent, or 22.5 percent in organic, like-for-like terms. In France, sales jumped 14 percent in euros, reflecting the expansion of the Hermès flagship at 24 Faubourg Saint-Honoré. The rest of Europe posted a leap of 30.6 percent.
Citing a strong consumer response to its fall-winter collections, Maury said holiday sales were excellent. Among best-selling items were: silk squares and neckties; Kelly, Birkin, Lindy and Victoria handbags; jewelry, and home items.
By product category in the fourth quarter, reported sales rose 9.5 percent for silk and textiles, 8.6 percent for perfume, 8.5 percent for ready-to-wear and fashion accessories, 7.9 percent for leather goods and 6.1 percent for tableware. Sales of watches fell 8.1 percent, which Maury blamed on a restructuring of its distribution in Japan and sluggish sales there.
She noted that business in Japan is "less difficult than a year ago," but growth is likely to remain modest.
By contrast, Hermès has been doubling its business in China annually and plans to open two new boutiques in 2008, in Qingdao and Kunming. The firm also plans to open its first location in India this year, a unit in New Dehli slated to open in April.