The leap in sales reported by LVMH, the owner of Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, suggests that at least one segment of the economy remains immune to the crises assailing retailers -- luxury goods.

Gyrating markets, surging inflation and gathering economic gloom have proven no barrier to demand among the well-heeled for handbags, watches, jewelry and cars. That’s evident in the 22% jump in sales of LVMH’s fashion and leather goods last quarter.

“The relief of getting out of the pandemic alive has trumped any bad news, as consumers who can embrace a ‘carpe diem’ attitude,” Bernstein analyst Luca Solca said in a note to clients. “Nobody wants to be the richest person in the graveyard.”

That attitude has caused lines to build up outside Christian Dior and Chanel boutiques in Paris, Berlin and London, in scenes reminiscent of the pre-pandemic era when Chinese tourists took advantage of lower prices in Europe. Only now, with Chinese shoppers still largely absent due to their country’s Covid policies, it’s Americans with strong dollars and Europeans who are doing the buying.

The persistent appetite for sought-after brands among the well-heeled has transcended handbags and costly trinkets and helped lift sales of Mercedes-Benz AG cars by more than a fifth last quarter. The initial public offering of Porsche benefited from the luxury cachet of the brand, whose market value surpassed that of its parent, Volkswagen AG, after the listing. Sales of other cars have been slumping.

Jean-Jacques Guiony, LVMH’s chief financial officer, told analysts that in past downturns luxury customers have tended to react more to stock-market shocks than slowing economic growth. Unlike mass-market retailers, LVMH has the ability to pass cost increases to its affluent customers, he said.

Meanwhile, the spending frenzy continues. Sotheby’s sold at the end of last month its most expensive handbag, a crocodile-skin Hermes Kelly, at auction in Paris, for 352,800 euros ($341,862). (The all-time record is still held by Christie’s.) There will be another opportunity to test the appetite of the rich when Sotheby’s holds another luxury bag auction -- set to end Thursday -- in Hong Kong.

The question now is how long this conspicuous consumption can carry on. Flavio Cereda, an analyst at Jefferies, said that while the LVMH results were positive, there’s still uncertainty on the trajectory going forward.

“This is another beat from the post-pandemic winner,” he wrote in a note to clients. But it’s still not clear “whether we are witnessing a last hurrah,” he added.

-With assistance from Benedikt Kammel.

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