PARIS, March 17 (Reuters) - Hermes, the French luxury goods group known for its pricy Birkin handbags, will close almost all its production sites in France until March 30 amid an unprecedented lockdown to fight the coronavirus outbreak, AFP reported on Tuesday.
Hermes' plant closures will affect most of its 42 sites in France except for a factory that produces perfumes and which could be used to manufacture hand sanitiser gels instead, AFP said, citing an internal memo sent to employees.
Hermes did not respond to requests for comment.
France on Tuesday stepped up restrictions on people's movements after non-essential retail stores, bars and restaurants were ordered to close over the weekend.
LVMH, the conglomerate behind Louis Vuitton, on Sunday said several perfume factories in France, which normally turn out fragrances and cosmetics for Christian Dior, Guerlain and Givenchy, would start producing sanitiser gel to be distributed for free to hospitals and health workers.
Hermes said it was taking the measures to protect staff, according to the memo cited by AFP. Its 42 production sites in France include its workshops that make leather handbags, which are then exported, as well as tanneries.
A watchmaking factory in Switzerland would also be shut, AFP said.
Luxury goods makers have so far taken an ad hoc approach to growing shutdowns across Europe, which in countries including Italy, Spain and France have forced them to close their stores, while some factories are still operational.
Kering's Gucci brand said last week that its production sites in Italy would be closed until March 20. (Reporting by Sarah White; editing by Nick Macfie)