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Sunday, December 9, 2012

PPR Shopping for Luxury Jewelry and Watch Brands

François-Henri Pinault. Photo credit: InDigital Media Group

NEW YORK — French holdings company, PPR, is on the lookout for luxury jewelry and watch brands to strengthen its portfolio and meet demands in the booming Asian region.

François-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of the company that
owns brands in the luxury, sports and lifestyle markets, said PPR identified a weakness in its portfolio in the growing men’s luxury segment. To rectify this it took control of the Sowind Group, which owns the Swiss luxury watch brands, Girard-Perregaux and JeanRichard. Then it acquired the Italian men’s fashion brand, Brioni.

The company already owns the French luxury jewelry brand, Boucheron, which it purchased in 2000. However, Sowind and Boucheron are the only companies it owns in the “hard luxuries” segment of the market. PPR primarily operates internationally in the apparel and accessories sectors in the luxury market and what it identifies as the “Sports & Lifestyle” market. Its luxury brands include Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga.

He said PPR will pursue hard luxury brands. “We are looking to any opportunities in jewelry and watches, particularly in Asia,” he said. “It is very important in Asia.”

Pinault made these comments Wednesday following a breakfast presentation at the Consulate General of France. During the event, he gave his views on a range of topics, including the growth of Asian market, the strategy of his diverse holdings company, and e-commerce and digital media.

Pinault said that for 50 years the growth in population and wealth in the world (800 million consumers) was centered in the U.S. and Japan. However, in 2006 the company identified that economic growth has shifted to emerging markets—particularly China, India, Brazil, and more recently, Indonesia—bringing 3 billion consumers to the worldwide market, and that this trend will continue.

“It means that in the next 50 years the growth is amazing,” Pinault said. “We don’t have any idea what it will be. We are always referring to the past but it’s no use. We cannot compare 3 billion people with more and more purchasing power to 800 million in the past… The question is what should we do to take advantage of those opportunities of growth?”

The company already made a decision to enter the luxury market in 1999. However, in 2006, it began to drastically change its portfolio to enter the sports and lifestyle segments. In 2007, it purchased Puma as the centerpiece of this new strategy.

Then, he said, the company needed to identify two areas of growth in this segment that would not compete with the footwear and sportswear company. It chose action sports, which led to the 2011 acquisition in Volcom, and the outdoors market segment.

PPR then took a giant step toward shoring up its e-commerce and digital media strategy by forming a joint-venture with online retail specialist Yoox to administer the e-commerce operations of most of its luxury brands.

Pinault says PPR’s digital media strategy has two parts. First, it needed what acquire the skill set, which resulted in the partnership with Yoox. Now it will try to create an experience that is similar to what customers get from going to one of its branded stores.

“You cannot offer an experience to your customer in the stores that’s completely different from the experience that you’re offering online,” he said. “You go to a Gucci store for the experience rather than mainstream stores. You have to reproduce that online.”

He continued, “The next step is to transform the e-commerce experience, our luxury experience, like it is in the stores. It will show that we can reproduce this conversation online.”

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