PARIS (Reuters) - French luxury leather goods maker Louis Vuitton is closing its Parisian stores an hour early to preserve stocks ahead of the Christmas rush, shop assistants said on Tuesday.
The shops, which are hot spots for tourists, are particularly popular among Japanese, Chinese and Russian buyers and make up a significant portion of the French brand's total western European revenue.
Stores affected include Louis Vuitton's flagship on the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, as well as its outlets on Avenue Montaigne and on Place Saint-Germain des Pres.
Tourists say the brand's leather bags are often cheaper in the French capital than at home in cities such as Shanghai, Tokyo and Moscow.
"We are closing at 1800 instead of 1900 to rebuild our stocks before the Christmas season," one assistant said, adding the new closing time could last until December 1.
Louis Vuitton boutiques within department stores Bon Marche, Printemps Haussmann and Galeries Lafayette will not be affected by the new opening hours, the assistant said, declining to be named.
Louis Vuitton, whose traditional copper-colored embossed bags usually start at around 1,000 euros ($1,287), generates roughly half of the operating profit of parent LVMH, the world's biggest luxury group.
The group declined comment on the opening or closing times of its stores.
The French leather goods maker is not the only luxury brand with supply issues.
Hermes customers in Asia sometimes have to wait more than three years for a particular bag. The company says it prefers to expand production slowly to preserve quality, even if that means holding back growth.
Louis Vuitton, which runs 11 ateliers or workshops in France, is building a new facility in the Drome region of southern France to boost production. It will be operational in the second half of next year and will employ 200 people.
LVMH shares were flat at 100 euros by 0941 GMT, valuing the group at 48.5 billion euros, while Hermes shares were also unchanged at 158.20 euros, valuing the luxury group at 16.5 billion euros.
(Editing by David Holmes)