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Why Cartier doesn't want to look too cheerful for Christmas

The head of the jewellery brand has said it is toning down its marketing message for the key holiday season amid war and a cost-of-living crisis

Rings on display in a Cartier luxury jewellery boutique in central London, UK. (Bloomberg)

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The head of Cartier says the renowned jewelry brand is toning down its marketing message for the key holiday season in Europe and the UK amid war and a cost-of-living crisis. 

When Cartier reopened its flagship boutique on Rue de la Paix in Paris last month after two years of renovations, it didn’t throw a big fete in the space it had occupied since 1899. Rather, it marked the return with a private invitation-only event for select clients of the marque known for its Panthère jewelry collection and Tank watches. 

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“When it comes to the year-end campaign, we have chosen something that is a little more subdued compared to previous years, especially in Europe and probably the US,” chief executive officer Cyrille Vigneron said on a call Friday following parent company Richemont’s first-half results. 

As Europe and the UK deal with the highest inflation in decades, soaring energy costs and war next door in Ukraine, luxury brands are striving to strike the right tone with both their well-heeled clientele and the general public. Earlier this year, the Financial Times renamed its How to Spend It weekend supplement HTSI “to reflect the deeper sensitivities and priorities of a changing world,” according to the magazine’s editor, Jo Ellison. 

Cartier has seen no signs of slowdown for its pricey products in Europe including the Santos watch, which is in short supply due to strong demand. A 150-piece limited edition of its $45,000 Pebble watch sold out before it reached store shelves.

Rather than downtrading, Cartier’s increasingly younger clients are upgrading what they are buying even as much of Europe struggles with a spike in heating prices and the cost of food.

“When it comes to Europe, the consumption and demand for our products is not going down,” Richemont CEO Jerome Lambert said on the same call. “We are still growing at a fast pace.”  

The restraint that marks Richemont’s approach to the holiday season in Europe has been cast off in some parts of Asia and the Middle East, where consumers are ready to party after two years of pandemic restrictions.

Although China is still subject to Covid-zero measures, Richemont is striking a more celebratory tone in Dubai, Japan and South Korea.

“People are really going after the Covid confinement and they want to enjoy more” in those locations, Vigneron said. “In this case, if we are too subdued it would not be appropriate either.”

“We can do things a little bit more festive in Tokyo and Sydney than we can do in Paris or London,” he said. 

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