Arwa Alhudhayei and Najla Ahmed are busy spending money. As she walks down New Bond Street – London’s home to many of the world’s most expensive luxury brands, including Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Hermès – Arwa reveals that she spent more than £2,000 yesterday.
Najla won’t tell the Guardian how much she’s spent because, she claims, she doesn’t know. “Oh my God,” she says. “It’s such a hard question, I don’t want to remember how much I spent. It is difficult.”
Arwa, wearing a gray and white Hermès scarf (£500) she bought yesterday, says the couple, who are visiting from Saudi Arabia, are likely to spend about the same today.
They dropped a lot of money at Harrods because “we like anything with the Harrods name on it, like specialty teas, chocolates and biscuits”.
They also popped into Balenciaga for a £550 T-shirt. Perhaps a bargain as it turned out to be one of the cheapest items in the store when The Guardian stopped by to see the brand’s new partnership with Adidas.
Baggy track pants are £850 (and sold out). “Stan Smith Worn-Out Trainers” are £695, and look like they’re ready for a trip to the dump instead of the catwalk. A bathrobe costs £3,450.
Arwa and Najla aren’t the only ones splurging despite the global economic crisis, which has seen working Britons experience the biggest slump in living standards since records began in the 1950s.
One luxury goods producer after another has reported record sales and profits as the world’s wealthy enjoy a “roaring twenties” era of decadence similar to the post-war boom a century ago.
The company behind Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Krug and Dom Pérignon said this week it is “running out of stock of our best champagnes” as it struggles to meet the “pent up demand” for the best fizz as celebrations erupt after the relaxation of the corona measures.
LVMH, the world’s largest luxury goods company, which also owns brands such as Christian Dior, Stella McCartney, TAG Heuer watches, and Bulgari and Tiffany & Co. jewelry, reported a 19% increase in sales in the third quarter. The chief financial officer said that among LVMH’s customers, the economic downturn is “not yet in full swing…if it ever will be.”
Kering, owner of Gucci, Balenciaga and Bottega Veneta, reported a 14% increase in its latest third quarter, and Hermès, whose Birkin handbags can cost tens of thousands of pounds, reported a 24% increase in sales compared to analysts’ expectations of 15 %. The company’s chief financial officer, Eric du Halgouët, said: “At the moment we don’t see any sign of a slowdown in any of our markets.”
Soaraway sales at Kering and LVMH put Paris ahead of London as Europe’s largest stock market earlier this week as the combined value of companies listed on the exchange rose.
Burberry on Thursday reported an 11% increase in sales in the three months to the end of September. The luxury British fashion brand, founded 167 years ago by the apprentice Thomas Burberry and known for its trench coats first used by troops in the First World War, has set itself an annual turnover of £5 billion, an increase of £5 billion. 2.8 billion in the year to April 2022.
Jonathan Akeroyd, who joined Versace as CEO earlier this year, has not set a date for the £5 billion target, but said sales would reach £4 billion within three to five years. “But,” he told investors. “I really believe we can go beyond this.”
On a chilly autumn morning in Bond St, where Burberry is spending millions redeveloping its flagship store, shoppers appear to have enough cash to help Versace and others achieve their ever-expanding goals.
Passing by the construction site of the Burberry store is Genico Young, a 22-year-old student from Indonesia who is studying business and economics at the University of Leeds. He is stopped by passers-by, who have seen his handbag.
It’s a Hermès Birkin 25 in Ombre Lizard, one of the most expensive handbags in the world – and, as Young says, “almost as rare as the Himalayan Birkin”, retailing for £40-£50,000.
It’s Young’s favorite designer accessory, but far from his only one. “I probably have about 40-50 bags,” he says. “I share them with my mother.”
Nearby Kayleigh Hagger, Jody Bines and Emma Riches, from Essex, are on a ‘girls shopping trip’ to the West End. First up is Gucci, where Kayleigh is looking for new shoes (£450). The women, who are in their 20s and early 30s and don’t have high-paying jobs, say they enjoy shopping at luxury brands despite the pressures of the cost-of-living crisis.
“You need something to get through,” says Kaleigh, who carries a black leather handbag monogrammed with the letters “KH.”
“Looking good makes you feel good.”