By Lenore Fedow
A pair of platinum Cartier earrings set with diamonds and spinel from the brand’s high jewelry collection. The Richemont-owned brand had success with its iconic collections in the first half of the year.
Geneva—Richemont missed the mark in the first-half but its jewelry sales remained strong, with Van Cleef and Cartier leading the charge alongside the luxury titan’s e-commerce sites.

First-half sales totaled €7.40 billion ($8.16 billion), a 6 percent increase at constant exchange rates, but lower than the €7.49 billion ($8.26 billion) analysts had expected.

Sales increased just 2 percent on a comparable basis, excluding online sales.

Retail sales (sales at Richemont-owned and operated boutiques) grew 4 percent at constant exchange rates, seeing growth in all regions except the United States where sales were “stable.”

Wholesale sales were down 1 percent at constant exchange rates with growth in Japan and Asia-Pacific outweighed by declines in other regions.

The jewelry houses generated higher wholesale sales compared with other areas, noted Richemont.

Online sales jumped 28 percent with “significant progress” seen in all regions, particularly in the Americas, Middle East and Africa. The double-digit boost is due in part to the recently acquired Yoox Net-A-Porter Group and Watchfinder & Co. being included for the full six-month period.

Sales in Richemont’s jewelry division were up 8 percent to €3.74 billion ($4.13 billion).

Sales at Cartier and Van Cleef were driven by a high-single digit increase in jewelry and a low-single digit increase in watches, Richemont said, with “noteworthy performances” in the Asia-Pacific region and Japan.

Cartier’s Panthère and Santos watch collections did particularly well. The launch of its new Clash collection was a success, Richemont said, with production ramping up ahead of the holiday season to address unmet demand.

For Van Cleef & Arpels, demand for the Alhambra and Perlée collections remained “remarkably strong.”

Richemont recently added to its jewelry portfolio, acquiring Italian jeweler Buccellati in a private deal in September.

Sales in its specialist watchmakers division, which includes A. Lange & Söhne and IWC Schaffhausen, were down 1 percent at constant exchange rates to €1.57 billion ($1.73 billion).

Lower wholesale sales were offset by mid-single digit growth in directly operated boutiques.

The strongest growth was seen at Panerai, A. Lange & Söhne and Vacheron Constantin and, regionally, in Japan.
Sales in Hong Kong, a key market for watches, fell double-digits while sales in Asia-Pacific were “muted.”

“Hong Kong is very exposed to watches and jewelry. The market was down around 10 percent in the first quarter, then we had a severe drop in the second quarter,” said Chief Financial Officer Burkhart Grund during an earnings call Friday morning.

Protests in Hong Kong, alongside a strong currency, have weighed on luxury sales in the area for Richemont and the industry at large.

“We’re not too worried about the jewelry business,” said Burkhardt, noting the distinction between jewelry and high jewelry.
“The jewelry business has continued to motor on as strongly as we’ve seen in previous years, whereas the [positive] seasonal effect of high jewelry will play out more in the second half of this fiscal year.”

By region, first-half sales in the Americas increased by 6 percent to €1.35 billion ($1.49 billion).

Sales in Europe were up 7 percent with U.K. sales climbing double digits, while sales in Japan rose 13 percent, buoyed by strong domestic and tourist spending.

Sales in Asia-Pacific, the company’s largest region, rose 5 percent with double-digit sales growth in China and Korea offsetting a double-digit drop in Hong Kong.

The Middle East and Africa was the sole region to record a decline in first-half sales, down 1 percent due in part to cutting ties with select wholesalers and geopolitical uncertainties.

Richemont didn’t provide guidance for the year ahead, but said on the call that the company will not exit the Hong Kong market.

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