Saito's post is a new one in charge of "value creation," customer relations and "any new activities in the future in the area of service," said Patrick Thomas, chief executive officer. "We have a value strategy instead of a volume strategy ....[Saito] is a man of vision and a strategic thinker."
Saito, who had headed Hermès' Japanese business since 1998, will also become a non-executive chairman of Hermès Japan.
Masao Ariga will succeed Saito as president of Hermès Japan effective Tuesday. Ariga joins Hermès from LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, where he was president of Loewe Japan Co. and a director of Louis Vuitton Japan. Before that, Ariga had more than two decades of experience in the retail business at Isetan Co. and Barneys New York.
Japan is Hermès' largest market, accounting for 24 percent of sales last year, but also its slowest growing, with 2007 sales rising 2.8 percent at constant exchange.
Thomas voiced confidence the company's fortunes would improve there once economic and currency woes ease. "Very quickly we should come back to a reasonable growth rate in Japan," he said.