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How slow times in the luxury world will separate the bling from the chaff

18 Jun 2020

MILAN, PARIS or New York this time of year would usually be teeming with fashionistas scrambling to get from the Balenciaga show to the Chanel party. Not in 2020. Fashion weeks have been cancelled, repurposed as posh catwalk webinars. Shops selling Hermès ties and Prada pumps are only just reopening, wondering what to do with stock of pre-covid-19 vintage. Instagram influencers normally on hand to feed the hype have nothing to snap.

The world of personal luxury goods—from handbags and haute couture to diamond rings and pricey Swiss watches—has been in hibernation. At the height of the pandemic between March and May sales slumped by 75% or so on a year earlier, according to the Boston Consulting Group. They have slowly picked up as Asia, then Europe and America, started reopening. Even so, the outlook for the luxury world is far from glittering.

The global recession hangs over a sector fuelled by consumer confidence. Beyond that short-term shock, the industry is facing an overhaul in how its baubles are made, where they are sold and to whom. Trends once expected to play out over a decade may unfold in mere quarters. Rapid change has set nerves jangling in a business meant to exude timeless tradition.

Start with who is buying and where. Although most purveyors of luxury are European (with America home to some of...


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This content was originally published by The Economist: Business. Original publishers retain all rights. It appears here for a limited time before automated archiving. By The Economist: Business

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