Birkin bags help Hermes luxury sales surge to €1.25bn

Hermes International solidified its status as the luxury industry’s go-to label, proving that customers are willing to ignore growing economic uncertainty and spend thousands of dollars on must-have leather handbags.

Sales rose 8.1% excluding currency shifts, Paris-based Hermes has said, which compares with analysts’ expectations for growth of 5.6%.

The first-half operating margin widened about 1 percentage point, helped by hedging on foreign exchange rates. The stock gained as much as 3.8%.

Hermes is increasing production of its signature leather goods, which have waiting lists that can run for more than a year, while many of its luxury peers are cutting back.

The UK’s Burberry Group, for example, is paring its product assortment by as much as a fifth as it seeks to reignite demand.

Hermes’ push shows the merits of promoting scarcity and not expanding too quickly, even in an upturn. The quarterly performance “proves the desirability of our products,” chief executive Axel Dumas said on a call with reporters.

Demand for Hermes’s Birkin and Kelly handbags, which can fetch $10,000 (€9,100), has held up even as luxury spending slows.

Sales of leather goods and saddlery, which account for about half of revenue, rose 17% in the quarter. The consensus was for growth of 13%, excluding currency swings.

Hermes’ “leather division saves the day again,” said Rogerio Fujimori, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets. The performance “is remarkable, given the difficult luxury backdrop”, he said.

Despite beating internal expectations, Hermes repeated its forecast that revenue growth could be below 8% this year, excluding currency swings.

Store traffic hasn’t improved in France following terror attacks in the past year, meaning Hermes is relying more on local clientele, while demand is still subdued, particularly in parts of Asia, Mr Dumas said.

Second-quarter revenue rose 6.2% to €1.25bn. Analysts predicted €1.23bn.


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