By Matthew Dalton 

PARIS -- Gucci reported a 12% drop in third-quarter sales as the Italian fashion house was hit hard by the absence of tourist shoppers from Asia during the pandemic.

The results released Thursday show the brand lagging other big luxury labels in the market upheaval sowed by the coronavirus. Hermès, the French brand known for its stratospherically-priced handbags, said Thursday that revenue rose 4.2% in the quarter, fueled by strong growth in Asia.

Louis Vuitton and Dior drove a 12% sales jump in the fashion and leather goods division of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE.

Gucci is struggling because it has come to depend heavily on what was, until the pandemic, a highly-profitable strategy: selling to well-heeled shoppers, particularly the Chinese, when they travel abroad. With international travel largely locked down, brands have been forced to encourage shoppers from China and elsewhere to buy where they live.

Gucci is particularly dependent on Chinese clientele shopping in European fashion capitals such as Paris, Milan and London. It also has a large business at duty-free stores in airports. Now it is scrambling to refocus its marketing efforts for a post-pandemic world in which international tourism could take years to recover.

Gucci's sales in Europe were down 47%, a much steeper decline than Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Dior. Overall revenue was EUR2.1 billion ($2.5 billion) for the quarter.

"We have some work to do compared to peers to re-engage with local clientele in Europe and elsewhere," said Jean-Marc Duplaix, chief financial officer of Gucci parent Kering SA.

Gucci is also in the midst of tweaking its image, toning down the flamboyance that creative director Alessandro Michele brought to the brand since his arrival in 2015. That look helped revenue more than double, driven by sales to a younger clientele. But now Gucci is hoping to gain ground with older shoppers who might not like some of Mr. Michele's more eclectic stylings, which have mixed Renaissance-era silhouettes with streetwear and the logos of professional sports teams.

"We have not, yet, this level of maturity with certain clientele," Mr. Duplaix said.

In a bright spot for Gucci, sales were booming in the U.S., driving revenue in North America up 44% for the quarter. A strong stock market and the repatriation of tourist spending from overseas boosted the market, Mr. Duplaix said.

Kering's other brands delivered strong quarters, reversing a four-year period when robust growth at Gucci buoyed Kering.

Bottega Veneta, one of the industry's fastest-growing big brands, saw sales rise 17% during the quarter to EUR332 million. The results show the Italian fashion label continuing its successful turnaround under the British designer Daniel Lee. Growth at Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen was also strong, Mr. Duplaix said.

Write to Matthew Dalton at Matthew.Dalton@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 22, 2020 14:39 ET (18:39 GMT)

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