Altagamma, the Italian foundation that monitors and promotes the Italian luxury goods sector, estimates that worldwide sales of handbags, shoes and small leathergoods will fall by 6.2 percent in 2009. The decline will be sharpest in the first six months of the year, when the drop will reach 7.6 percent, compared with a 4.4 percent fall in the second half.

The apparel sector should experience an 8.7 percent drop in annual sales; table art is expected to fall by 15.4 percent; jewelry, watches, pens and lighters are due to drop by 12.3 percent; and perfume and cosmetics are likely to fall by 4.8 percent. Each segment is expected to experience a stronger decline in the first half of the year than in the second.

By region, sales of luxury goods are seen falling by 8.8 percent in Europe for the whole of 2009, by 14.8 percent in the Americas - where the U.S. represents about 90 percent of sales - by 11.7 percent in Japan – the fifth annual decline in a row - by 2.3 percent in the rest of Asia, and by 2.1 percent in the rest of the world. In every region, except "the rest of the world," the first half will be tougher than the second.

On average, luxury goods companies will see a 21 percent decline in gross operating profits (Ebitda) compared with 2008 due to the fall in sales and additional efforts to attract clients.

In its survey on the consumption of luxury goods carried out every two months, Altagamma estimates that there will be a further slight drop in March-April compared with January-February – when the decline was either slight or significant depending on the various segments – but with some bright spots. Consumption in Greater China is expected to enjoy a significant increase in March and April while the Middle East and Latin America are due to book a slight increase.

The worst-performing markets will be the U.S., Japan, Russia, the U.K. and Italy.

The foundation did not give an overall 2009 forecast for the industry. But in October, it released a survey carried out by Bain & Company forecasting a 3-7 percent drop in sales of luxury goods to €163-170 billion from an estimated €175 billion in 2008.