Retail Detail. Suddenly Affordable Luxury Seems Like an Oxymoron

January 21, 2008 • Shopping


In an article in today’s New York Times called, "Thinking Twice About That $400 Handbag" (which to me sounds like a steal considering I have a preference towards $1,000+ bags), the bad news continues to erode the fashion industry. The retail juggernaut that swept through America’s shopping malls
and bedroom closets is most definitely over. Affordable luxury is not looking so affordable — or sustainable — anymore.

the 2007 holiday shopping season, the middle-class consumers who spent
the last decade splurging on $300 saucepans and $600 scarves, tightened
their purse strings in the face of an impending recession. As a result, an entire economy built around aspiration is starting to collapse. Affordable luxury purveyors like Tiffany & Company, Nordstrom and Coach have experienced slowing sales and plunging stock prices.

With the erosion of our economy, the biggest
casualties may be the illusion of wealth that millions of Americans
enjoyed for years. It used to be that Americans with household incomes of
$50,000 and above tended to “trade up” to high-end products in categories
like kitchen appliances or bedding that are emotionally important to
them, while perhaps pinching pennies elsewhere to compensate.

of chains rode this wave, and earned billions in the process.
Coach persuadedTiffany_sunglasses_2
women to buy $400 handbags when a $60 version from
Macy’s could have sufficed. And 7
for All Mankind convinced people that they wanted a $200 pair of jeans
made from the same material in a $30 pair of Wranglers.

Today, any growth in real income is all but
canceled out in consumers’ minds by falling home prices and rising
energy costs. Michael J. Kowalski, the chief executive of Tiffany,
calls this “the wealth affect.”

Even if people have plenty of
money on paper, he said, they suddenly feel less rich. “It is a
reaction to the general economic uncertainty that everyone is feeling,”
Mr. Kowalski said.

Read the rest of Thinking Twice About That $400 Handbag"

See the Top Ten Summer 2016 Trends for Women Over 40

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