Monday, September 10, 2007

The rich, they're not like you and me

And the difference is growing.

Will the rich save the economy? - By Daniel Gross - Slate Magazine:

Recent sales figures from retailers like Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney, Dollar General, and Sears have been less than encouraging. But the huge mass retailers may not be the best indicators of overall spending. Instead, we should probably focus on the what the rich are doing.
On the other hand....

At Saks, same-store sales in August were up a stunning 18.2 percent; at Tiffany, same-store U.S. sales rose 17 percent in the second quarter. Indeed, luxury retailers are in an expansive mood. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week (subscription required) that "this year, some 30 high-end retailers have opened boutiques in Austin [Texas], including Tiffany & Co., Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, David Yurman, Louis Vuitton and Burberry." These stores are located in a new mall anchored by Neiman Marcus, where same-store sales rose a healthy 4.6 percent in August. Among the strongest performers: "designer handbags, shoes, designer jewelry, women's fine apparel, and men's."

Nationwide, the housing sales market may be a bust. But the Journal reports (subscription required) Friday morning that while many California housing markets suffer, "[e]ye-popping sales are spreading along a 40-mile stretch of southern Santa Barbara County." In July, sales in the area, "the only region of California where the median sales prices surpassed $1 million," rose nearly 28 percent. Publicly held home builders that cater to middle-class buyers are faring poorly. But the very wealthy are still building. This 50,000-square-foot home under construction in West Hartford, Ct., is worth 20 starter homes—and probably more, given the amenities. Or take personal transport. While auto sales are down, "the market for private jets is stronger than it has ever been," said Richard Aboulafia, analyst at the Teal Group. Economically speaking, a Gulfstream G550, which is made in the United States and goes for $48 million, is worth the equivalent of 3,200 Ford Focus coupes, which go for about $15,000 each.

Read the whole article.

(By the way, Gross concludes that the the answer to his question is no.)

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