Louis Vuitton Malletier (LV), the upmarket leather goods arm of French luxury goods giant LVMH Group, is braving the chill winds of Hong Kong's recession to open a regional flagship store in Central. While Hong Kong's well-known upscale retailers Dickson Concepts (International), Joyce Boutique and Lane Crawford International have seen sales slow considerably, LV last week opened a 6,600-square-foot outlet which on Friday boasted a queue snaking around its perimeter. LV, which distributes leather goods under the labels Louis Vuitton, Loewe, Berluti and Celine worldwide, is taking advantage of a sharp correction in the property market. LV president Yves Carcelle said: 'The real estate market was crazy last year. Rents in Hong Kong are normal now compared to the rest of the world. 'The expansion is economically justified. We will be ready to benefit when the market rebounds.' As part of a worldwide expansion move, LV last year spent more than $500 million renovating 246 outlets and adding new ones. Mr Carcelle claimed all the outlets were profitable. In Hong Kong, which has been the group's Asian headquarters for the past 20 years and where it has seven outlets, LV was famous in the past as a haunt for well-heeled Japanese tourists. Now Mr Carcelle says it is attracting a new group of customers - mainland visitors. 'The mainlanders, Taiwanese and Japanese are the major groups of customers in Hong Kong on top of local shoppers,' he said. Mr Carcelle said the booming counterfeit business in Shenzhen, where fake Louis Vuitton bags were sold at just 5 per cent of the usual retail price, had failed to drive away its customers.