Profits Soar at Hermès, as the Wealthy Keep Spending

The Hermès Birkin bag. (Photo: Hermès)

With the season’s first major art auctions still more than a month away, The Observer has been looking for hints about the state of demand in the art market. At the Art Basel art fair in June, dealers reported that clients were spending freely, but we wanted to know just how intensely they are doing so.

And so this news caught our eye: high-end Parisian fashion house Hermès announced that its profits for the first half of the year jumped a jaw-dropping 50 percent over the previous year, with revenues climbing an astounding 21.5 percent, to €1.31 billion ($1.89).

While demand for one brand can hardly augur what will happen in the art and luxury markets in the months to come, those buoyant figures at least provide the possibility that it could get wild in international auction rooms, as the wealthy continue to spend despite longstanding concerns about the state of the international economy.

In fact, the upper echelon’s spending at Hermès has been so vigorous that the label says it is running low on its supply of its highly coveted Birkin and Kelly handbags, and has warned that revenue may not expand quite as dramatically in the second half of the year. “We are not resting on our laurels,” the company’s CEO, Patrick Thomas told The Wall Street Journal. “But we can only make so many bags.”

The company’s Birkin bags typically start at $10,000 and can venture into six-figure territory depending on their material and design. We’ll see if collectors so readily spend such sums in the galleries and auction rooms of New York in coming weeks.

Profits Soar at Hermès, as the Wealthy Keep Spending