LV lets shortages out of the bag: Heather Connon in Paris is on the case of the disappearing luxury goods

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The Independent Online
LOUIS VUITTON, purveyor of upmarket luggage, is rationing sales in its 187 shops following a surge in demand that threatens to use up its stock.

Yves Carcelle, chairman, said that customers were being restricted to one of each product, and were being discouraged from buying more than two items, even if they were from different ranges.

Despite the rationing, the group's flagship store on Avenue Montaigne was crowded with shoppers browsing among the suitcases - prices from about Fr13,000 (pounds 1,593) - and the famous monogrammed Keep-alls - Fr2,150 to Fr4,800.

Louis Vuitton said customers were generally understanding but one who was being asked to restrict himself to one bag was protesting vigorously.

The rationing confirms the sharp recovery in demand for luxury goods in the past 12 months. Louis Vuitton's sales in the first five months of the year were 35 per cent ahead of last year.

Mr Carcelle attributed the rise in demand to the ending of the recession, but he admitted that such increases were not sustainable for a luxury goods company. Its 10 factories are already working flat out, producing two million items a year. An 11th will not be in production until September.

About half of the group's sales are made to Japanese, at home and abroad. In the Avenue Montaigne yesterday most of the customers were Japanese, attracted both by the yen's recent strength and the company's price policy, which means prices are around a third lower in France than at home.

That does not make them cheap, however. The lowest price in the shop is Fr450 ( pounds 55), which would buy you a business card holder. But, for the woman who has everything, a cancelled order by a 'very special customer' has made available a custom-made carrier for 30 pairs of shoes, a snip at Fr162,000 .

LV would not say whether Imelda Marcos had been told.

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