The chief executive of French fashion house Chanel, Maureen Chiquet, has abruptly resigned over strategic differences, the company said, just as the luxury goods industry is suffering from a severe slowdown. Chiquet had been CEO for nine years and was one of the few women at the helm of a big luxury brand. Alain Wertheimer, who owns Chanel with his brother Gerard, will manage the luxury brand until a replacement is found for Chiquet.
The company, in a statement, thanked Chiquet for her work, saying she had overseen international expansion, enhanced Chanel's luxury positioning and grown the business in all categories.
Exane BNP Paribas analyst Luca Solca said the departure of Chiquet, who had previously worked at Gap and French cosmetics group L'Oreal, was not surprising, however, as Chanel had made mistakes in the Chinese market. Chanel was the first major luxury brand to lower its prices in China last year to reduce the significant price gap with Europe due to foreign exchange rates and tariff duties. "The brand seems overexposed to the Chinese, and the recent price alignment action seems to have exacerbated this problem," Solca said. "I am not too surprised therefore to see her go. Besides it's a difficult time for luxury goods, and when the going gets tough..."
Chiquet's departure came a day after Chanel produced a much-acclaimed eco-chic haute couture show under the stewardship of long-standing designer Karl Lagerfeld. Chanel is among the biggest luxury brands in the world and a favourite among Chinese luxury customers.
The luxury goods industry has seen sales growth slow in recent years, and in the past few months it has been plagued by a drop in tourist traffic due to terrorist attacks, slower economic growth in China and record low oil prices that have dented the purchasing power of important luxury buyers from Russia and the Middle East.
(Reporting by Astrid Wendlandt; Editing by Susan Fenton)