French handbag maker Longchamp sees more potential in China

French handbag maker Longchamp sees more potential in China

PARIS - Longchamp, one of France's leading handbag makers, plans to increase its presence in China, its chief executive said, in sharp contrast to retrenchment by rivals and despite the economic slowdown and changing consumer culture there.

Many leading luxury brands such as Kering's Gucci and LVMH's Louis Vuitton have put the brakes on further store openings in China as part of campaigns to preserve their exclusive image. "We are far from having fully tapped China," Jean Cassegrain, chief executive of the privately-owned group, told Reuters in an interview. "The brand is starting to be increasingly appreciated by the Chinese, both at home and abroad."

Founded in 1948, Longchamp, known for its logo of a jockey on a race horse, is one of the last remaining independent family-owned leather goods makers in France with a global presence.

It competes against brands such as Italian leather goods maker Furla and France's Lancel, owned by Swiss luxury group Richemont.

Cassegrain, whose family founded and owns the brand, said he felt Longchamp had not been affected by China's crackdown on exchanging gifts for favours. Such gifts usually involved spirits and watches, he said, rather than bags and clothing.

Longchamp's core business is women's handbags, with its best-selling Pliage bag starting under a 100 euros (S$175) and leather handbags starting at around 370 euros.

Cassegrain said Longchamp, present in China since 2006, ran about 20 shops there, and was looking to open more in the years to come. He would not give a specific target. Longchamp closed two shops in China last year and opened six.

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