LVMH uses digital sales to woo Chinese


PARIS • After demand from China drove another quarter of rapid growth for LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, CEO Bernard Arnault is counting on e-commerce to help keep his luxury empire ahead of the pack.

First-quarter (1Q) sales rose 13% on an organic basis, the Paris-based owner of Sephora and Christian Dior said late on Monday. That beat analysts’ average estimate of 8.5% and spurred up the shares as much as 5.7% to a record high of €277.25 (RM1,073) in early Paris trading yesterday.

While Chinese consumers have been stocking up on LVMH’s Louis Vuitton handbags and Givenchy makeup, the country’s economic growth is expected to slow to 6.5% in 2018, according to forecast data compiled by Bloomberg.

The maker of Hennessy cognac is intensifying its digital efforts, such as its sponsorship for a start-up accelerator that aims to encourage entrepreneurs developing new technologies and services for the luxury industry.

“Digital allows us to reach the client more quickly and directly,” Arnault, who is the company’s chairman and Europe’s richest man, said on Monday in a ceremony for the accelerator. “Innovation and creativity are fundamental values for LVMH.”

LVMH moved to ramp up its e-commerce business last year with new sites for its Celine handbags and Berluti shoes, the first online store in China for its largest brand, Louis Vuitton, and a new multibrand emporium called 24 Sevres.

“We’ve really seen progress across the board,” chief digital officer Ian Rogers said in an interview, pointing to the online openings as well as increased engagement on social-media platforms like Instagram and China’s WeChat.

The company saw organic 1Q growth of 10% or greater in categories such as spirits, fashion goods, cosmetics and jewellery. The strong results across all divisions show that sales momentum for LVMH’s key brands remains intact, said John Guy, an analyst at MainFirst, who raised his rating on the stock to ‘Outperform’ from ‘Neutral’ after the results.