Page last updated at 11:02 GMT, Tuesday, 21 July 2009 12:02 UK

Posh handbags lift Hermes' sales

Hermes handbag and leather wallet
Hermes is well-known for its very expensive bags

Luxury goods group Hermes has reported a 12% rise in second-quarter sales, led by a big increase in demand for its handbags and other leather items.

Global sales at the French company totalled 446.6m euros ($635m; £387m) in the April-to-June period, up from 398.1m euros a year earlier.

Sales of its leather goods rose 33%, to 228m euros, and now account for more than half the firm's revenues.

The firm's most expensive handbags can cost more than 10,000 euros.

Watch woes

Hermes said it would "continue to invest significantly" in the business during the second half of the year, including opening new stores and renovating current outlets, "primarily in Asia and the US".

Hermes' established brand reputation works in the company's favour in the current environment
Dennis Weber, Evolution Securities

Second-quarter sales at the firm's ready-to-wear clothing and fashion accessories division were up 13%, while they rose 11% at its silk and textiles unit.

However, sales of its watches, perfumes, and tableware goods were all down.

Analyst Dennis Weber of Evolution Securities said Hermes was helped by the strength of its brand name.

"Hermes' established brand reputation works in the company's favour in the current environment, and we believe in the relatively defensive nature of the Hermes brand," he said.

The 11% fall in the sale of Hermes' watches between April and June has been echoed by watchmakers in Switzerland, industry figures have shown.

The Swiss Watch Federation said sales at the country's watch-makers, including Rolex and Tag Heuer, were down 26% in the first half of 2009.

It added that the Swiss watch industry was facing its steepest drop in global demand in about 20 years.

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