French luxury groups eye Middle East growth opportunities
France's famed luxury retailers, from Chanel to Baccarat to Cartier, are to put their best foot forward Friday in the Gulf emirate Dubai, seen as a gateway to the riches of the Middle East.
An estimated 30 groups are to present their offerings at the mammoth Dubai Mall, a 1,500-square meter temple to luxury.
The Middle East accounts for around eight percent of the 22 billion euros (30 billion dollars) in sales recorded by the 75 French luxury companies that are members of the Comite Colbert industry association.
Some groups depend on the region for 25 to 35 percent of their sales in such sectors as perfumes, cosmetics and hotels.
In Dubai, said Elisabeth Ponsolle des Portes of the Comite Colbert, it is "important to show the full range of French flare and not simply handbags or watches."
Among the big names on display will be fashion houses Lanvin and Chloe, accessories specialist Chanel, Dior perfumes, Bernardaud porcelain, Gien china and jeweller Cartier.
The culinary sector will be represented by pastry specialist Pierre Herme and caterer Dalloyau.
Craftsmen will conduct demonstrations, a glassmaker from Saint-Louis, a leather worker from Hermes, "to show the importance accorded to human capital in our companies," said Ponselle des Portes.
French luxury houses for years made their presence felt in the Middle East through specialised distributors rather than through their own shops.
But recently French retailers have established outlets in the Gulf states and Lebanon. Beirut, bidding to regain its status as a luxury destination in the region, has this year seen the arrival of Dior, Louis Vuitton and Hermes.
Dubai is meanwhile seen as a bridgehead to the Middle East "as Hong Kong has been for China," said Ponsolle des Portes.
She said the Chinese, looking for lower prices than they can find at home, have become "the leading clientele for our houses at the Dubai Mall, after regional customers and ahead of the Russians."
© 2010 AFP