Paris Preview: The Scene

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CRUNCH TIME: Sales of French women’s ready-to-wear again receded in 2012 as the economy ground to a halt, encouraging consumers to cut their overall clothing budgets and seek out more bargains, the French Federation of Women’s Ready-to-Wear reported.

Sales totaled 11.03 billion euros, or $14.18 billion, in 2012, down 2.8 percent versus 2011. Discounted items accounted for a record 37.9 percent of total sales, up 390 basis points from the previous year.

“We are still in a context of economic crisis on the French market,” said François-Marie Grau, general secretary of the federation. “Buying at a discount has become the norm.”

The French woman’s average clothing budget was 397 euros, or $510, in 2012, down from 410 euros, or $571, in 2011 and 421 euros, or $559, in 2010. The biggest spenders were women age  13 to 24, with an annual budget of 521 euros ($670), and those in the 55 to 64 age group, who spent on average 513 euros ($660).

Despite the glum domestic outlook, exports thrived as foreigners snapped up outfits with the “French touch.” Overseas sales rose 3.4 percent in 2012, and Greater China overtook the U.S. for the first time as the country’s top export destination, with China and Hong Kong jointly accounting for 9.4 percent of exports.

The federation will accompany some 50 brands, including Bérénice, Zappa, Gerbe, Didier Parakian and René Derhy, to scope out new customers at the Chic Clothing and Accessories Trade Fair in Beijing in March.

— Joelle Diderich

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