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Does Kering’s US-Centric Strategy Still Make Sense?

Luxury brands have gone all-in on America, but the country’s post-pandemic boom may be on its last legs. That, plus what else to watch for this week.
Gucci and other Kering brands are opening more US stores as sales in the country boom.
Gucci and other Kering brands are opening more US stores as sales in the country boom. (Getty)

The American consumer has helped luxury brands power through the pandemic, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and other global crises. Even now, as the International Monetary Fund cuts its global growth forecast, China’s economy cools and Europe prepares for a winter without Russian gas, analysts are raising their outlook for the biggest labels. Last week, LVMH said sales raced ahead of expectations, thanks in large part to American tourists splurging on Vuitton and Dior in Europe, where their dollars go further than they have in decades. This week, Kering and Hermès have their turns.

These companies are doing everything they can to make the most of the US-led boom. They’re holding fashion shows and exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles and other major markets. Executives frequently fly over to wine and dine top American customers. They’re also opening new stores at a rapid pace, with an emphasis on mid-sized cities like Nashville or Austin that were previously underserved.

The coming months will put that strategy to the test. The US is looking less immune to the economic turbulence that has hit China and Europe this year. Last week’s inflation reading came in higher than anticipated, all but ensuring the Federal Reserve will step up efforts to cool the economy. Luxury brands risk hitting a saturation point in the US just as the spigot is about to be turned off. Stocks are in a bear market.

Which brings us to the companies reporting results this week. Kering in particular has made no secret that it is all-in on America, with plans to open many more stores for its brands. Those locations are sure to see a big initial rush of business from customers, particularly when they’re in cities where residents previously had to drive hours or hop on a plane to get their Gucci in person. In the medium term, the success of this strategy hinges on the fate of the wider economy. It’s true that luxury brands’ biggest clients have shown they’ll keep spending no matter what (hence the reason the private client business is one of the pillars of most companies’ US expansion plans). But the entry level customers flocking to new stores in Ohio or Louisiana to buy bags, wallets and T-shirts may go back to window shopping as the Fed’s hawkish policies take effect.

Analysts are likely to raise this point with Kering executives after the company releases results on Thursday. The company’s long-term strategy is sound — the American economy doesn’t appear headed for a UK-style tailspin and isn’t facing anything near Europe’s energy crunch. But after two years of relying on America, brands may need to start looking elsewhere for growth.

What Else to Watch This Week

Sunday

The 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party opens; Xi Jinping is expected to secure a third leadership term

Monday

Sephora launches online sales in the UK

Elle’s Women in Hollywood event in Los Angeles

Wednesday

The European Fashion Alliance’s annual summit begins in Gran Canaria

Asos reports quarterly results

Thursday

The Swiss watch industry reports exports for September, a key measure of global sales for luxury timepieces

Kering and Hermes reports quarterly results

Friday

Brunello Cucinelli reports quarterly results

The Week Ahead wants to hear from you! Send tips, suggestions, complaints and compliments to brian.baskin@businessoffashion.com.

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