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From Red Carpet Roll-up To Economic Anxieties, Industry Braces for War

As the nation rolled toward war, retail and fashion executives waited to see what the impact might be of a conflict everyone hopes is a short one.

In addition, Gobe projected, "Beauty products will do well, even if the war goes on. They can change a person’s outlook for a moment, and are affordable."

As for the possibility of product boycotts, most executives said they hope it doesn’t happen — and have seen little evidence of it yet. But the pro-boycott movement is being fueled in the U.S. by tabloids like The New York Post, which on Tuesday ran a photo of a Chanel-wearing model with a weasel’s head grafted onto her body. It urged its readers to buy American, not French. Robert Duffy, president of Marc Jacobs International, which is owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, labeled such talk as "ridiculous," saying, "I can’t get over how many of my American friends own stock in French businesses. They are our friends. Get over it."

Duffy said he was informed that sales of Louis Vuitton have been strong, or at least not materially affected by Americans rallying against French brands following France’s efforts to dissuade the U.S. from pursuing military action in Iraq.

But Judi Litkin, manager of Wally’s, a premier wine shop in West Los Angeles, supplying several of this week’s events and parties — some Oscar related — said customers have boycotted French wines. "I’ve even had waters boycotted," she said, declining to identify the parties. "No Perrier and no Evian. Clos du Bois is a California wine but because it sounds French, they don’t want it."

Any backlash against French products is likely to be short term, Gobe predicted. But there’s a flipside — the growing movement against the war could create an even greater backlash abroad against American products. "McDonald’s business is down 80 percent in the Middle East because of a boycott," Gobe said. "What the region’s 1.2 billion people don’t realize is that those are local franchises; they are hurting local citizens."

A spokeswoman for Research International, the international qualitative market research company that recently published a consumer survey into global perceptions of modern brands and the issues facing globalization, said it found that consumers generally separate out political actions from the brands they buy — and don’t care if their countries of origin behave badly. The research covered 41 countries, including Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia, but not the Middle East. "Our research showed that consumers love American brands. As for French fashion brands, we found that they are as much about the founder — i.e., Coco Chanel — as they are about the country they come from."
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