Luxury consumers are splurging on exclusive jewelry and handbags, as high-end brands Tiffany (NYSE: TIF ) and Burberry Group (NASDAQOTH: BURBY ) have reported stellar first-quarter results. Another luxury-goods maker, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (NASDAQOTH: LVMUY ) , reported overall revenue growth of 4% for its first quarter back in April.
Louis Vuitton's leather goods reign supreme
LVMH's Louis Vuitton business showed the best results in the quarter with growth of 11%, while its wines & spirits segment dragged down its results with an 8% drop in revenue . LVMH, along with Tiffany and Burberry, can attribute its strong earnings to the performance of its brands in Asia, particularly Japan, the second-largest luxury market in the world.
Market-research firm Millward Brown's latest BrandZ report on the top 100 most valuable global brands of 2014 ranked Louis Vuitton the third-largest brand within the Continental Europe market. Within the luxury-brand category, the leather goods maker has grown 14% since 2013 to take the category's top spot. The report states that there's been a shift among luxury consumers from goods with prominent logos to more discrete and exclusive items. So brands like Louis Vuitton are eliminating less-expensive merchandise and working to reinforce their exclusivity .
Burberry focuses on makeup and perfume as luxury entry points
Many luxury brands are scaling back on lower-priced trinkets like key-chains and focusing on makeup and fragrance lines as entry points to their brands. Burberry, for example, had licensed its name to a beauty-products supplier and later decided to gain full operational control of its beauty line in April 2013. The company has assembled a team that's working to grow the company's beauty products .
For Burberry's fiscal year ended March 31, 2014, the company's revenue increased by 17% due to growth in its retail and wholesale operations. Reported profit before tax was up 27%. Burberry also increased its full-year dividend by 10%, as it moves from a 40% to a 50% dividend payout ratio over the course of three years. The Japanese market is considered an important platform for future growth and the company plans to open retail stores in key cities like Tokyo and Osaka . Burberry predicts that Japan will generate retail revenue of over $166 million by fiscal 2017.
Tiffany's jewelry sells like hotcakes
Meanwhile at Tiffany, the sparkly stuff is selling well. Shoppers were spending their money on the retailer's high-end engagement rings and other pieces from its jewelry collection. Results from the three months ended April 30 showed a rise in worldwide net sales of 13% to $1 billion. Net earnings grew 50% to $126 million, up from $84 million earned in the first quarter of 2013.
First quarter diluted EPS was $0.97 versus $0.65 in the year-ago period. The Asia-Pacific region was particularly strong; in Japan, total sales rose 20% despite the negative effects of a weaker yen. There are some negative expectations on currency issues continuing into the next few quarters and a consumption tax that took effect in April. However, Tiffany is confident that the Japanese market will deliver healthy growth in 2014 .
My Foolish conclusion
The Millward Brown report states that the luxury market is back and judging by the latest results from these companies, high-end consumers don't appear to be holding back. Earnings abroad show that wealthy consumers in emerging markets are also driving demand. Shares for Burberry, Tiffany, and LVMH are up for the past 12 months and if consumer confidence continues to show strength while consumers remain interested in luxury goods, revenues at these high-end retailers should continue to grow.
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