//Luxury goods sales booming in India

Luxury goods sales booming in India

Berlin, June 9 (DPA) Farmers may be committing suicide in India, but sales of Mercedes-Benz are booming in the country.

The sales have jumped by 16 percent on average over the last five years. This, experts say, is part of a boom in sales of luxury goods around the world, thanks to a new class of super rich in Asia, the Middle East and eastern Europe.

Like China and other emerging economies, India's high-octane economic growth rates have helped to create a new sense of wealth and prosperity as well as brand consciousness in a section of society.

The result has been a flood of designer shops from Gucci through to Valentino, Versace, Louis Vuitton, Dior and Chanel along with leading watch brand makers such as Tag Heuer and Cartier popping up in major cities across India.

Whether it is yachts, premium car brands, champagne, Haute Couture fashion, high-priced liquor and wines or perfumes and handcrafted watches, reports from companies making high-end products point to a robust 2006 for their industry after a solid start to the year.

Highlighting the arrival of a new wealthy elite in China, luxury German car group Audi said this week that sales in Asia's new powerhouse economy surged by 65 percent in May and almost doubled over the last five months.

Having already forged a presence in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, legendary New York retailer Saks Fifth Avenue is to become the first US department store to open in China.

Analysts said that China could represent 10 percent of the world luxury goods market by 2015 with the numbers of Chinese dollar millionaires growing at 12 percent annually.

Worldwide sales of luxury goods are expected to average about six percent in the run up to the end of the decade, international consulting group Bain & Co said in a report released this week, with the sector growing by a solid nine percent in Asia.

This has been borne out by a recent string of reports from the corporate high priests of luxury goods with France's Hermes International saying it was aiming for 10 percent annual sales growth in the coming years and New York's venerable Tiffany & Co reporting double-digit first-quarter international sales expansion.

Paris-based luxury goods powerhouse LVMH said first-quarter sales jumped by 15 percent partly driven by strong demand from Asia as well as Europe.

"All business groups recorded strong progress, continuing the trends observed in 2005," LVMH said confirming that it expects to turn in "significant growth" for 2006 as a whole.

The current buoyant state of the global luxury goods sector is in marked contrast to recent years when Europe's economy was battling to emerge from a protracted period of stagnation and concerns were growing about the threat posed by risks such as SARS and war in Iraq.

Now, apparently unperturbed by soaring oil prices and rising interest rates, emerging markets around the world have been joining key markets in the US, Europe and Japan to chalk up big sales of luxury goods on the back of the international economy's recent healthy growth rates.