PPR Bets on E-Commerce Growth

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ROUBAIX, France - Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (PPR), the French mail order and retail giant, is looking for annual sales of 15.2 billion euros (close to $15 billion) by 2002 in consumer and luxury goods sales, compared to roughly 9.5 billion euros in 1999.

Last year PPR saw overall sales reach almost 19 billion euros (about $18 billion, taking sharp currency fluctuations into account), up 14.5 percent over 1998 sales. Sales for the first two months of this year were up by 23.4 percent. PPR is looking for 50 percent growth between 1999 and 2002.

Corporate sales were up by 14.5 percent, growth rose by 32.2 percent, net profits were up 23.2 percent and self-financing by 59 plus percent. President Serge Weinberg called 1999 "a year of strategic advances across the board."

The only shadow on the glow, Weinberg said, was a slack performance by Redcats, the renamed catalog operation of La Redoute which includes Brylane in the US. Weinberg called the performance "not very satisfactory."

Results, Weinberg told Annie Rigoureaux's "Le Journal de la VAD," bear out his strategy of multi-channel distribution, with special emphasis on development of e-commerce, internationalization and sale of luxury items.

Sale of luxury goods were up 13 percent last year to 785.2 million euros (about $750 million), while Internet consumer sales exceeded 1999 expectations of 100 million francs ($15.4 million) to reach 27.3 million euros (about $25 million), up by almost 100 percent.

Sales outside of France continued their strong growth of recent years, accounting for 48 percent of sales compared to 44.1 percent in 1998.

Investments were also up sharply, growing by 45 percent last year to 3.5 billion francs ($538.5 million) with 63 percent of that sum spent on innovation and development.

Redcats catalog operations topped 28.5 billion francs (about $4.8 billion), an overall increase of more than 6 percent that was, however, offset by lower sales

in France for both Redoute and Cyrillus, two fashion books, with Cyrillus running into problems on the once lucrative Japanese market.

Demand in Great Britain was down and Brylane cut back on catalog distribution in the US. Together they accounted for a 0.9 percent decline in sales. Weinberg, however, is moving to redress the balance.

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