Pro-democracy protests harm luxury brand’s sales

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WHEN pro-democracy activists built barricades in Hong Kong last year, they wanted the world to hear their grievances.

The peaceful student-led demonstrators were protesting against China’s plans to place restrictions on the first election for Hong Kong’s leader.

Yesterday, it emerged that the protests had also had a damaging impact on one of the world’s best known luxury goods brands, which is a major employer in Yorkshire.

Luxury brand Burberry suffered a fall in sales in Hong Kong in the third quarter, although a relaunch of its trademark trench coat helped to boost demand elsewhere. The pro-democracy protests took place in parts of Hong Kong in late September, disrupting business in one of the world’s top markets for luxury goods, which accounts for about 10 per cent of Burberry’s global sales.

Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s chief creative and executive officer, said that the company’s Asia Pacific market delivered low single-digit percentage growth, which mainly reflected the disruption in Hong Kong, a high margin market, where comparable sales fell slightly in the period.

But he added: “We’re pleased to report a strong performance over this important period, during which our teams worked tirelessly to bring the very best of the brand to the customer in our stores and online. A 15 per cent underlying growth in retail sales (to £604m) reflects this commitment to every element of the customer experience, from product, to marketing, to service.

“Looking ahead, we will bring equal focus to maximising the opportunities of the final quarter - including Lunar New Year - while being mindful of what remains a challenging external environment.”

Mr Bailey confirmed that mainland China and Korea grew by a mid to high single-digit percentage.

Mr Bailey, from Halifax, took over as chief executive in May last year, combining the role with that of chief creative officer.

Burberry employs more than 750 people in Yorkshire, with the vast majority based at its factory in Castleford.