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Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.

Luxury’s Post-Pandemic Future

This week, everyone will be talking about LVMH’s post-pandemic outlook at its annual meeting, the start of Ramadan and BoF’s Professional Summit on closing fashion’s sustainability gap.
Louis Vuitton Store IFC Mall Shanghai. Shutterstock.

LVMH SETS THE TONE

  • LVMH reports first-quarter financial results on April 13 and holds its general meeting on April 15.
  • The owner of Louis Vuitton, Dior and dozens of other brands typically sets the tone for the rest of the luxury industry each earnings season.
  • The US and China, luxury’s biggest markets, are booming, though whether that will translate into surging sales remains to be seen.

There’s less clarity than usual about how luxury’s biggest brands have fared so far in 2021. The industry is likely to see strong economic data out of the US and China translate into booming sales from its two biggest markets. But lockdowns across much of Europe can’t be good for business. LVMH will release first-quarter results on Tuesday, and with a global presence in ready-to-wear, leather goods, beauty and hotels, its outlook will set the tone for competitors. The latest report will be followed soon after by LVMH’s annual shareholder meeting on Thursday, an opportunity for executives to give a detailed outlook for the coming months and, occasionally, to make some news. Last year, CEO Bernard Arnault predicted a gradual recovery from the pandemic, setting expectations low for what turned out to be a surprisingly robust rebound for the conglomerate’s brands. The normally bullish Arnault is unlikely to be quite so circumspect this time.

The Bottom Line: One area to watch is LVMH’s travel retail business. Air passenger volumes are rising rapidly in the US and some other countries, but it’s not yet clear whether the international shopping trips that are so important to global luxury brands are making a comeback.

RAMADAN, REIMAGINED

  • Ramadan, a month of prayer, fasting and spiritual reflection celebrated across the Muslim world, begins this week.
  • The holiday, and particularly its closing Eid-al-Fitr festival, is typically a major source of business for fashion brands in Muslim-majority nations.
  • Net-a-Porter, Shein, Farfetch and Zalora are among the e-tailers producing special edits or collections for Ramadan.

Last year Ramadan, which rotates around the calendar based on the lunar calendar, happened to fall in late April when global lockdowns were at their strictest. Sales from what was normally the Muslim world’s biggest shopping event of the year were effectively wiped out. In 2021, fashion brands and retailers are hoping to make up for lost time. They just might: Dubai’s malls have been open since last summer, and the emirate, along with nearby Bahrain and Qatar, has been among the world’s fastest at vaccinating its population. Retailers who depend on the “Ramadan Rush” of Muslim tourists arriving to the UK and other destinations are out of luck, however. And some of the largest Muslim-majority countries by population, including Indonesia, have been slower to roll out vaccinations.

The Bottom Line: Global retailers are hedging their bets with renewed e-commerce investments in Ramadan edits and collections. These proved popular before the pandemic and will be decisive in reaching consumers looking to dress up even in countries where gatherings are still prohibited.

CLOSING FASHION’S SUSTAINABILITY GAP

  • Join us on April 14 for a four-hour live broadcast featuring conversations about fashion’s biggest sustainability challenges and opportunities with leading global experts, thought leaders and activists.
  • Fashion sustainability pioneer Stella McCartney will close the summit with a keynote address in conversation with Imran Amed.
  • The summit will dig deeper into the findings of The BoF Sustainability Index, which benchmarks the performance of fashion’s biggest companies against ambitious environmental and social goals.

The coming decade is a critical period to achieve global sustainability goals, but fashion’s actions are falling short. Scandals over labour exploitation remain commonplace. The process of making clothes continues to rely on toxic chemicals and emissions-intensive manufacturing and shipping. The whole business of fashion is engineered to thrive on habits of wasteful over-consumption. Pressure to change is ratcheting up from consumers, regulators and investors. But what should companies be doing? Join us on April 14 for BoF’s first Professional Summit of 2021, Closing Fashion’s Sustainability Gap to hear solutions and opportunities from a top line-up of expert speakers.

The Bottom Line: The financial and reputational risks presented by fashion’s inaction on sustainability are increasingly significant. Getting to grips with the challenges and solutions is critical for the industry.

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

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