Bernard Fornas, chief executive of Cartier, has revealed that demand for its high-end timepieces in China is slowing, despite the country being the main driver behind the recent boom in luxury goods sales.
The Richemont Group brand is, according to Fornas, undergoing a period of turbulence in mainland China. He spoke about the Chinese market during an interview on Wedneaday at Cartier’s factory at La Chaux-De-Fonds, Switzerland.
"After a phenomenal year last year, there’s been a bit of a slowdown in mainland China," he explained.
"Mainland China is still holding for us. One month is worse, one month is better. The curve is not yet clearly defined.”
Fornas added that while Cartier’s watch sales are still increasing, it is not at the same rate as 2011. He declined to reveal figures or percentages, however.
Fornas described the increase in Chinese consumers buying watches and jewellery outside their home country, something several Richemont brands are likely feeling.
"So many Chinese are buying abroad now because they have made a little calculation and seen it is cheaper to buy in London, Paris, New York or Dubai, than in Shanghai," he said.
As a result, while Cartier’s sales in Europe, the Middle East and the US are supported, its standalone stores are losing out, despite the heavy investment Richemont has placed in China.
But Fornas added that he is not concerned about the situation in the long-term in China.
"When you talk to the people over there, they are all waiting for a new president to come in,” he said.
“That will fuel the economy with fresh money and lower interest rates. The people think there should be a strong recovery in the first semester of next year.”
Fornas spoke at the launch of the new Cartier ID Two concept watch, as revealed on Wednesday.
As outlined by the Wall Street Journal, earlier this week Hengdeli Holdings Ltd., China’s biggest watch retailer, said high-end watch demand has slowed to single-digit growth in recent months, although low- and mid-end watches were “still growing at double-digit rates”.