French luxury eyes Turkey as Middle East hub

PARIS - From Chanel to Dior, Hermes to Vuitton, the giants of the French luxury industry will swoop into Istanbul in January in a joint drive to build ties with the booming market and Middle Eastern trade hub.

Under the umbrella of the Comite Colbert industry association, 26 firms will take part in a January 16-22 festival in Istanbul aimed at showcasing the best of French luxury, in partnership with contemporary French and Turkish artists.



Istinye Park, Istanbul

Taking place in the Istinye Park shopping mall and the upmarket Nisantasi shopping district, the event aims to promote the cultural side of French luxury - but also marks Turkey's rise as a market for the sector.

"It is time to start thinking where tomorrow's growth will come from," the comittee's head Elisabeth Ponsolle des Portes told a Paris press conference.

After the dynamic growth of the BRIC countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China -- attention is turning to Turkey as one of the CIVETS group of emerging economies, along with Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt and South Africa.

Turkey at present accounts for just two percent of the combined turnover of the 75 firms represented by the Comite Colbert, a total of 31 billion euros, but growth is "extremely strong," said Ponsolle des Portes.

The French luxury firms present in Turkey have seen their turnover grow by an annual average of 30 percent over the last five years.

"Turkey is taking on a more and more important regional role," she said. "The country, and especially the city of Istanbul, is becoming a regional trendsetter."

"For the last two to three years it has attracted a clientele from the Gulf countries - who previously flocked to Beirut - as well as from the ex-Soviet republics, with very strong purchasing power."

Istanbul accounts for the bulk of the Turkish luxury market, with two further luxury malls in development there.

Twenty-five chief executives will fly into town to launch the January event, along with French Foreign Trade Minister Nicole Bricq.

The business delegation will also press Turkish authorities to improve their access to the national market by slashing high taxes on foreign luxury goods - such as leather and foodstuffs - and clamp down on counterfeiting, which is still rife in the country.

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