VOL. MMXIII..No. 209

Notes From Abroad | Tracking Global Retail

Will Terrorism Threaten the French Luxury Brand?


In yesterday’s New York Times, Arts and Style journalist Vanessa Friedman writes of how in the days after last week’s terrorist attacks, luxury brands were at odds over how to handle the unsettling event. In many cases, they canceled or cut back on major marketing initiatives.


The Times’ own luxury conference which was to be held at Versailles, was canceled. A black tie dinner for the exhibition, Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style, is reduced to a casual cocktail. And a lavish Cartier diamonds reception became a “breakfast open house.” Hold the pancakes. Not exactly luxe.


“There’s a temptation,” writes Friedman, “when confronted with fear, sadness and human loss, to turn away from luxury; a natural instinct to dismiss frivolous subjects as inappropriate at such a serious time.”


Retail is always fragile when faced with a global crisis. Consumer confidence dips and “frivolous subjects” like shopping for the latest Chanel gown seems much less easy to condone.


Courtesy Charles Platiau:Reuters

A Paris Christmas market was forced to close after the recent terrorist attacks, just one effect on local retail.

As expected, tourism has dropped. Airlines are experiencing hundreds of cancellations, and the recent bomb threats to Air France flights has only elevated traveler anxiety. Tourism represents 8-percent of the French economy.

{ “The truth is, the successful luxury brand is able to transcend even the horrors of terrorism and engage customers in the idea of the brand purchase as a show of nationalism and support.” }

Will we face a major luxury retail slowdown, and can Paris regain its image as the fashion capital?


More than likely, France’s top luxury brands will put a bigger emphasis on boosting other markets like the Middle East and Asia, even though with the latter, China’s sagging sales has hit Louis Vuitton in particular, quite hard. This week, the brand closed two stores in Guanghzou along with stores in Harbin, and Urumqi. Hermès, Versace, and Giorgio Armani have been shuttering stores in China since 2013.

Overall, global sales of luxury goods is beginning to limp.




Many luxury brands made statements in social media about the tragedy. Louis Vuitton changed its facebook image to one that spelled LOVE, using the brand’s signature LV type.

Nevertheless, brands can still turn to other strategies. They should push clienteling and drive sales associates to connect with their customer database, even if only to “check in” to see if clients are safe. e-commerce, always the luxury brand’s Achilles heel, should be ramped up with communications that remind shoppers that “we’re still here for you,” and that premium service will not stop in the face of terrorism.


The truth is, the successful luxury brand is able to transcend even the horrors of terrorism and engage customers in the idea of the brand purchase as a show of nationalism and support. But luxury brands, with their specialty of fantasy, don’t always like to deal with reality.


Still, they made an effort. On social media, Brands like Berluti, Lancome and their corporate headquarters like LVMH and Kering, changed their cover photos on Facebook to solid black. Karl Lagerfeld’s online presence became his iconic profile in blue, white, and red. And Louis Vuitton deftly used its LV logo as a symbol for LOVE.


The Times‘ Friedman is clearly on the same bandwagon. She rallies with the idea that now is the time for the luxury consumer to make a political statement with a purchase. But with the New YorkTimes, it could equally be a play to the luxury brands who advertise within the pages of T magazine.


On the day of the attacks, we visited a U.S. Hermes boutique and found one customer who had stopped in to express his sadness and disbelief. “I’m friends with a sales associate here and I just felt like I needed to come in and talk about what happened.”

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