High Time, Hermes!

As Hermes finally opens its much-awaited store in Delhi, Eric Festy, its regional managing director(Middle East & South Asia) talks to THE MAN in an exclusive interview.

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There is a slowdown in the luxury goods market, globally. You chose to open a second store for Hermès in India. How is business going for you?

We didn’t feel the hit that much. There has always been a good demand for our products since we launched our first store in India in 2008. We felt that there was a slight imbalance between Mumbai and Delhi, and since the demand was good, we wanted more people to experience our products. Hence we planned this store launch. We are very happy with things being on track for us.

What makes India such a favourable market for luxury brands?

I think Indian craftsmanship is exceptional and the consumers have a great knowledge of luxury and bespoke jewellery. The rich history and heritage is testimony to that! People know what they want and have a good understanding of colour palettes, fabrics, precious metals and gems. As a brand that believes in the same values, it’s not difficult for us to identify with the Indian audience.

Hermès is known for its silk scarves, leather accessories and fragrances. How challenging has it been to establish yourself as a serious watchmaker?

We are not really newcomers to watchmaking and already have the requisite skills. We try to apply the same principle to our watches that guides us for our other products. Strong design and quality materials (leather, fabric, precious metals) are what we offer, and that works for our watches as well. The luxury watch business has suffered in the last two years, but the markets are recovering and the situation is improving. At the moment, however, we are happy since the watch business in South Asia and the Middle East is doing very well.

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What sort of response do your watches get in India?

We have a wide range of watches and customers can choose from design-oriented as well as technical pieces. We sell more watches to the ladies, but in some parts of the world, our men’s watches perform better. We are definitely hoping to attract some serious watch enthusiasts who know the brand and what we stand for.

When it comes to jewellery, India is still very traditional. How tough is it selling jewelled pieces here?

European markets do well for us in the jewellery segment. Even countries like Singapore have good sales. It is obviously a challenge to sell jewellery in India, but then Hermes is not really a jewellery maker. It’s very important for us to explain to our customers that the inspiration behind our unique designs comes from the equestrian world.

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You will be showcasing your products at SIHH 2018. Why did the brand decide to move out of Baselworld?

We had been showcasing at Baselworld for many years, but it evolved a bit differently from what we expected. The message conveyed to the customers was not appropriate to what we had in mind. So, we thought it appropriate to join Geneva and meet expectations.

Which is your highest selling product across categories?

Our bags are the best-selling product. Depending on the markets, sales can go from 20 per cent to 45 per cent.

Hermes Delhi boutique, its second in India, is at The Chanakya in Chanakyapuri, Delhi.

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