Cartier, LVMH look to stores outside Paris for Olympic retail boost

By Thomson Reuters May 21, 2024 | 1:50 AM

By Mimosa Spencer and Elisa Anzolin

PARIS/MILAN (Reuters) – Luxury retailers in European cities outside France are jockeying for business from deep pocketed tourists this summer, betting on a surge in visitors avoiding crowds and street closures in Paris during the Olympic Games.

“Paris will probably be slow,” with cities like London, Milan or Barcelona likely seeing a lift in traffic during the event, Cartier CEO Cyril Vigneron said on Friday.

The Summer Games, which run from July 26 to Aug. 11, are probably “not the right time to organise a very important high jewellery celebration in Paris”, said Van Cleef & Arpels CEO Nicolas Bos. “But we will keep the stores open and be very happy to welcome sports amateurs,” he added.

The executives of the Richemont-owned jewellery brands speak from experience. The 2012 Olympics, held in London, drove some serious shoppers to their boutiques in Paris, they said, although it was “neutral” overall for their businesses. Expecting a similar trend this year, they will focus on meeting their wealthy customers where they turn up.

LVMH, the world’s largest luxury group and an Olympic sponsor, is also basing its expectations on its experience during previous events in London and Beijing.

“It’s usually quite neutral – although it makes our life a little bit more complicated when it comes to supplying products into our stores,” said LVMH Chief Financial Officer Jean Jacques Guiony.

A report commissioned by Paris 2024 last week flagged a possible “crowding out” effect whereby tourists that had planned to come to Paris go elsewhere, but said that it is hard to measure and to predict.

France’s governing fashion body, The Federation de la Haute Couture et la Mode, has moved the autumn 2024 haute couture fashion shows forward a week to June 24, straight after the menswear spring 2025 ready-to-wear events. Organisers are also doubling shuttle services between shows as final Olympic preparations are expected to snarl city traffic.

Still, some fashion labels will only hold showroom presentations in Milan this season, due to “logistical difficulties because of the Olympics”, Carlo Capasa, chairman of Italy’s National Fashion Chamber, said.

London retailers, which have suffered from a drop in tourist traffic with the end of UK tax-free shopping, are hoping to capture business from Paris, with preparations well underway at iconic stores Harrods and Selfridges. “Paris has already been taken off the Chinese tour guide lists for this summer,” said Harrods’ managing director Michael Ward, who is expecting a significant boost. “We’ve got to curate the product, we’ve got to be absolutely on our game to handle it,” said Ward.

The department store hopes to draw in shoppers with celebrations of its new Tiffany & Co. high jewellery boutique, designer pop-ups and exclusive products including two new 175th anniversary teddy bears designed by Italian jewellery label Bulgari and makeup label Charlotte Tilbury.

Selfridges plans to attract locals as well as international visitors with sporting events such as a running club and is beefing up its offer of sportswear products.

“We are getting ready for a huge celebration of sport,” said CEO Andrew Keith.

Barcelona, meanwhile, is pitching itself as a laid-back alternative to the frenzied Olympic atmosphere in Paris.

“Spain can offer a more relaxed leisure and consumer experience than that which, for weeks, the host city and country of the Games will have,” Spanish retail and food industry association AECOC told Reuters.

Some tourists, including from the United States, who do visit the Games, which will mostly be held in venues throughout the French capital, are planning to extend their trips to visit other European countries.

“U.S. travel data appears to imply a halo effect, as in addition to an increase in bookings in France for the Olympics, our data reflects an amplification of intra-European travel by Americans in Europe to certain destinations, such as Spain, Germany and Italy,” travel agency eDreams told Reuters.

(Reporting by Helen Reid in London, Corina Pons in Madrid, Elisa Anzolin in Milan and Mimosa Spencer in Paris; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)