* Louis Vuitton to move into stationery
* Will sell pens in one shop only at first
* Move should help retain brand's exclusive edge
By Astrid Wendlandt
PARIS, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Louis Vuitton is branching out into luxury pens and stationery as the upmarket leather bag maker looks for new ways to retain its exclusive image, after it launched high-end jewellery and hired an expert to create a perfume.
The world's biggest luxury brand by sales, owned by LVMH , aims to start selling alligator-skin fountain pens, customised writing paper and brightly coloured inks in time for Christmas, industry sources close to the matter told Reuters.
"Press releases should be sent out in about a month," one of the sources said of the new business.
Louis Vuitton, which like many of its luxury sector peers is facing slower growth in big markets such as China, will take on penmakers Montblanc and S.T. Dupont , albeit on a small scale at first.
Its new collection of leather goods such as pen holders and writing pads also means the brand will be invading the turf of Hermes , which has been trying to rebuff approaches from 22.6 percent-shareholder LVMH.
Louis Vuitton's sales, estimated by analysts at 6.5 billion euros ($8.4 billion), or more than double that of Gucci , the world's No.2 luxury brand, are forecast to reach 12 billion within 5-7 years.
Its size and growth mean it must balance the need to retain its exclusive image with selling big volumes, analysts say.
One analyst said the new luxury items - such as Baccarat crystal ink wells - combined with the fact that the range would initially only be sold in one shop, would help retain the brand's exclusive image.
"Getting into writing instruments could help Louis Vuitton protect its position at the very high end of the market," the London-based analyst said.
The pens, stationery and luxury writing items will first be sold in a new outlet on the boulevard Saint-Germain in central Paris, which is due to open this month after delays.
The site is sandwiched between the tourist hotspots Cafe de Flore and Cafe Les Deux Magots, made famous by the philosophers and writers among their clientele in the 1940s and 1950s, and which now award literary prizes every year.
The site will first be used for art exhibitions and cultural events on writing and travel. It will later sell pens and stationery, one of the sources said, adding that Louis Vuitton also wanted to open similar shops dedicated to writing in Tokyo and New York.
Sales assistants in the nearby Louis Vuitton boutique confirmed the brand would start selling writing instruments soon but declined to be named or give details.
Spokeswomen for Louis Vuitton and LVMH declined to comment.
The Saint-Germain area where Louis Vuitton is expanding is seen as the capital's literary centre and many publishers still have their main offices there.
But the area is increasingly being invaded by luxury brands like Burberry and Ralph Lauren , which recently opened a store there, next to Emporio Armani and Berluti.
Louis Vuitton will also take over another site adjacent to its existing shop, freed up by medal, watch and jewellery maker Arthus-Bertrand, which had been there since 1890, but has moved further down the road.
"The entire shop will eventually be completely redone," one employee in the Louis Vuitton shop said.
Louis Vuitton, originally a luggage maker, branched out into ready-to-wear clothing under designer Marc Jacobs in 1997.
On Wednesday, Louis Vuitton presented its new spring/summer collection in the courtyard of Paris's Louvre museum.
The show, which featured 1960's-inspired short tunics and shoes, played on Louis Vuitton's classic check motif, in white and canary-yellow using shimmering and transparent fabrics.
"You have to surprise and amuse, otherwise you become boring," Marc Jacobs said after the show, part of Paris Fashion Week which ends on Wednesday. ($1=0.7731 euros)
(Additional reporting by Pascale Denis; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)
Keywords: FASHION LOUISVUITTON/