By Lenore Fedow
Richemont’s headquarters in Bellevue, Switzerland. The luxury giant’s first-quarter jewelry sales were strong, but the watch segment didn’t perform as well. (Photo courtesy of Richemont.)
Geneva—Luxury conglomerate Richemont reported strong sales growth in its first-quarter results, but a slowdown in watch sales somewhat dulled its shine.

Overall sales totaled €3.74 billion ($4.20 billion), a 9 percent increase at constant exchange rates.

Sales in its jewelry division, which includes Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, were up 7 percent to €1.83 billion ($2.05 billion).

Sales in its specialist watchmakers division, which includes A. Lange & Söhne and IWC Schaffhausen, were up 1 percent at actual exchange rates to €823 million ($923 million), but down 2 percent at constant exchange rates.

In Hong Kong, a key market for watch sales, the strong Hong Kong dollar coupled with recent protests weighed on sales, said the company.

Richemont also pointed to “ongoing cautious watch inventory management and distribution optimization initiatives” as factors behind the negative impact on its wholesale channel.

By region, sales in the Americas increased by 10 percent to €698 million ($783 million). Jewelry sales were strong in the region, which outweighed lower watch sales.

Sales in Europe were up 12 percent to €1.07 billion ($1.20 billion) due to “good momentum” in the jewelry segment while strong domestic and tourist spending sent sales in Japan up 8 percent to €298 million ($334 million).

Sales in Asia Pacific, the company’s largest region, rose 10 percent to €1.42 billion ($1.59 billion). 

The company noted it performed particularly well in mainland China, due in part to lower VAT (value-added tax) and custom duty rates.

The Middle East and Africa segment was the sole decliner, dipping 7 percent to €249 million ($2.79 million).

The company pointed to “unfavorable” currency movements and the severing of ties with selected wholesalers as factors behind the decline.

Richemont didn’t provide guidance for the year ahead, but noted that more product launches would be on the way by its second quarter.

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