Scarves star for Hermès

Chinese demand for delicately made £400 silk scarves has helped the French luxury group Hermès offset disappointing sales growth of its handbags and watches.

First-quarter sales of €856.8m (£733m) were up 10.3 per cent on the same period a year ago at the Paris-based luxury brand with Asia, excluding Japan, showing a 17 per cent rise. Last year was the group's most profitable, and yesterday's numbers allayed fears demand in the Far East has faltered.

Recently expanded lines of clothes and scarves helped increase sales by 18 per cent and 15 per cent respectively for the period – overshadowing its leather goods business which reported just 7 per cent growth. Sales of watches slumped 5 per cent.