Brunello Cucinelli sees flat first quarter sales amid coronavirus outbreak

A Brunello Cucinelli label is seen on a shirt at the factory in Solomeo village near Perugia, Italy, September 4, 2018. Picture taken September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian luxury group Brunello Cucinelli, best known for its cashmere sweaters, said it expected flat revenues in the first quarter compared to last year as the spread of the coronavirus outbreak offset an otherwise strong start to 2020.

Chairman Brunello Cucinelli told analysts on Wednesday sales in China, where the group has 15 shops, had halved in the first two months of the year after the virus first emerged there in December.

However the group’s exposure to China is limited to 10% of revenues, and after having to close 70% of its stores there at the height of the crisis, all its shops have reopened and sales began to recover in the first 10 days of March.

With the health emergency spreading beyond Asia, and Italy now fighting to contain the worst outbreak of the disease outside China, Cucinelli said the group had started to see a slowdown in Europe but not in its key U.S. market, and maintained an overall positive outlook for the year.

Reporting by Silvia Aloisi