S.T. Dupont excels amid steady growth in luxury brand market

by Minoru Matsutani

Staff Writer

S.T. Dupont, a maker of luxury lighters, pens and other merchandise, will continue to outsell industry rivals thanks to the launch of new attractive products, according to its global president.

Even in the sluggish economy, the company’s annual sales have grown more than 20 percent in Japan in the past two years, a trend it expects to continue this year, while global sales have grown by about 10 percent, S.T. Dupont’s Chief Executive Officer Alain Crevet said in an interview.

The luxury brand market in general enjoys annual growth of about 10 percent, he said.

Crevet defines luxury as “great quality and durability,” which, he says, matches Japanese customers’ tastes.

“Japanese are interested in quality and history. When you use an S.T. Dupont pen, you know it’s very good quality and lasts long,” said Crevet, who was in Japan recently to promote special-edition products commemorating the French brand’s 140 anniversary.

S.T. Dupont’s product lineup is roughly divided into three categories: lighters, pens and other items, including bags, cuff links and belts.

Globally, lighters account for 40 percent of the firm’s sales, while pens make up 25 to 30 percent and the other products account for the rest, Crevet said. In Japan, lighters account for 60 percent, pens 30 percent and the others 10 percent.

S.T. Dupont, mainly recognized in Japan for its lighters, has been increasing its sales of pens in recent years, according to S.T. Dupont Japan K.K. President Yoshikazu Yann Gahier. Indeed, lighters made up 80 percent of sales in Japan until 2006.

When Crevet began working for S.T. Dupont five years ago, the firm had lost money seven years in a row. To revive sales, Crevet made the decision to stop making clothing and focus on what the company is known for: lighters and pens.

At the same time, Crevet said he started introducing affordable products with modern and smart designs to attract young customers while shifting the brand’s focus to women.

The change has paid off, as the company was able to return to profit three years ago, he said.

It posted a net profit of €5.5 million (¥550 million) on sales of €73 million in the year ended March. He said he is aiming for a profit margin of 15 to 20 percent.

The commemorative products for the firm’s 140th anniversary include a diamond-encrusted pen and lighter and a pen and lighter designed by Eiichiro Oda, the author of the popular manga “One Piece.”