Cartier Launches its Biggest Boutique in Middle East

Bruce Stanley
Filed on March 28, 2009

DUBAI - Luxury goods company Cartier International SA on Thursday braved the deepening global recession to launch its biggest boutique so far in the Middle East.

The 700 square-meter showroom in the upscale Dubai Mall testifies to the Cartier’s confidence that chilly economic winds will not deter well-heeled residents and visitors to Dubai from buying its jewelry, watches, handbags and other high-end merchandise.

Business at the store – Cartier’s third in Dubai -- has been good since the boutique’s soft opening three months ago, said Cartier President and Chief Executive Officer Bernard Fornas.

Cartier’s sales in the Middle East have proven “very resistant” to the effects of the global recession, he said. “Obviously, there is a slowdown,” he told Khaleej Times in an interview. But even with a slowdown, sales in Dubai and the rest of the Gulf have been “very, very healthy.”

Cartier, which opened its first shop in Dubai in 2004, invited Bollywood actors and representatives from the governments of the UAE and France to celebrate the official opening of this boutique, its flagship in the region. Of its 300 stores worldwide, Cartier has 12 in the Middle East, including four in the UAE. It plans to increase the number of stores in the region to 18.

Fornas said the current recession is part of “a cycle, up and down,” which he tries to look beyond in planning his strategy of global expansion.

“When you run a company like Cartier, you don’t run it on a monthly basis. You work it for an eternity,” he said. “One day the economy will recover, and we’ll be [here], with the best location and the best boutique.”

While many of the flagship store’s customers have been Emiratis, the most enthusiastic buyers have been Chinese. Cartier has only one Mandarin-speaking salesperson in Dubai, so the white-gloved sales staff at the Dubai Mall store often resort to body-language to communicate with Chinese shoppers.

Fornas described China and the Middle East as the two regions of the world where sales are holding up well in for the current climate. India, where Cartier has just one store, in New Delhi, is a good long-term prospect only if the Indian government reduces its taxes on the sale of luxury goods, he said. For now, he said, many of Cartier’s Indian customers frequent its shops in Dubai.

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