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Chanel is going through a big change

The house has seen several executive exits in the past few months, as the luxury goods sector witnesses more normal spending levels

From Chanel Metiers d'art 2023-2024 fashion show, in Manchester, on 7 December
From Chanel Metiers d'art 2023-2024 fashion show, in Manchester, on 7 December (AFP)

Chanel has seen several executives leave the luxury fashion house in recent months amid a slowdown in demand for the sector’s pricey goods.

The company’s former Japanese head has joined the US and UK bosses in departing Chanel Ltd—known for its No. 5 perfume, tweed jackets and mini-skirts—two years into Leena Nair’s reign as chief executive officer.

The moves come as the luxury goods sector is adjusting to more normal spending levels after demand soared when pandemic restrictions eased. The consultancy Bain estimates the industry will grow by as much as 4% this year in its most probable scenario, down from 8% in 2023, underlining the challenges facing high-end companies.

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Richard Collasse, who ran Chanel’s Japanese business from 1995 until 2018, is leaving the brand after four decades, a representative for Chanel said in a statement Thursday. He established the global travel retail business in recent years, they said. 

Other executives also departed in the past year. John Galantic left at the end of June after 16 years, having helped to develop Chanel’s e-commerce and digital business as president of the US region and chief operating officer. Stephane Blanchard replaced him in September.

In March, Olivier Nicolay left after more than three decades, according to his LinkedIn profile, having overseen the UK, Canadian and Latin American operations. Nicolay led Chanel’s efforts with other luxury retailers to lobby the UK government to reintroduce VAT-free shopping for tourists, a move that has yet to happen. He was replaced as UK president by Elizabeth Angles d’Auriac, who joined Chanel in 2019 from LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE. 

Chanel is privately-owned by the billionaire brothers Alain and Gerard Wertheimer whose fortunes are estimated at about $45 billion each, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The company, founded in Paris but headquartered in London since 2018, reports its financial performance once a year, generally around late May. Revenue rose 17% to $17.2 billion in 2022 on a comparative basis.

The brand is widely viewed as one of the most exclusive in the luxury sector, with handbags such as the flap bag in a medium size now selling for about €10,000 ($10,960) in France after years of aggressive price increases. Chanel’s fashion collections are headed by Virginie Viard, who took over after Karl Lagerfeld’s death in 2019.

Speaking to Bloomberg in May, Chanel’s Chief Financial Officer Philippe Blondiaux said US demand had softened but that Chanel was still seeing growth there as well as double-digit growth in China. At the time, Nair said Chanel had no plans to launch an IPO of the company, which has long been a topic of speculation.

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