The Rich Are Richer Than You And Me

Can the news get any worse? "It's China or bust for Frederick's of Hollywood," the New York Post glumly informs us.

In an exclusive posted by Josh Kosman and James Covert early this morning, we learned that "the cash-strapped lingerie chain -- scrambling to prop up sagging demand for its skimpy thongs, fishnets and teddies" is using a Singapore-based investment bank to find a buyer in the Far East, where it obviously believes there's vast unstrapped potential.

Then we've got the standard downers. "Debt Pressures Rattle Europe.""U.S. Corporate Bond Yields Hit Fresh Lows.""'Green Tides' Drive Tourists From Brittany Beaches." Mon Dieu! It's August, for cryin' out loud! Leave our European beaches alone!

Well, hold onto your Satin Bow Pasty Bra. It's not all doom and fire-sale after all. First off, things are looking pretty darn good for the affluent. "Even Marked Up, Luxury Goods Fly Off Shelves," the New York Times informs us this morning.



Stephanie Clifford reports that there's a waiting list for a Chanel tweed coat that will set you back more than $9,000 (unless your Uncle Looie finds one that fell off the Bentley). Neiman Marcus is running low -- or should I say wobbling low? -- on $775 Christian Louboutin "Bianca" platform pumps. (Pssst. Check this out.)

"Luxury goods stores, which fared much worse than other retailers in the recession, are more than recovering -- they are zooming,' Clifford writes. "Many high-end businesses are even able to mark up, rather than discount, items to attract customers who equate quality with price."

Then there's the report in Wall Street Journal that department stores are NOT going to succumb to the allure of the friendly, neighborhood dollar store after all. "Dowdy Department Stores Start Looking Cool Again," Elizabeth Holmes and Ann Zimmerman inform us. Not just Nordstrom, but Macy's and Kohl's, too, thanks to scale "and a complex business model that involves a web of third-party vendors and in-house lines."

"Part of the success has come from a renewed push to line up exclusive collections, a change from the prior 'homogeneous' offerings," according to Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners. "Goods that can't be found anywhere else, especially those branded with well-known or celebrity names, make the store a destination."

We knew that, didn't we? Or, as Saul Gitlin of Kang & Lee, an advertising agency focused on Asian consumer markets, tells the Post about Frederick's of Hollywood's prospects: ""China can represent a second wind for a brand that has been challenged elsewhere, but it's all about the marketing."

Swiss watchmakers, meanwhile, finely attuned to the latest trends, "are leading a campaign to revive the watch as a status symbol in the U.S., particularly among men, who make up the bulk of the market," Sandra M. Jones recently wrote in the Chicago Tribune. "Watch companies are rolling out their own branded stores, reinventing the way watches are sold and trying to halt the rise of discounting."

Joseph Partington, owner of Forgotten Times, a watch store in Arlington Heights, Ill., tells Jones: "The Swiss are really trying to push the idea that in order to be well-dressed, you have to have a nice watch."

Also on the bright side, foreclosures aren't just a mom-and-pop operation any more.

"Hedge funds, private-equity firms, pension funds and university endowments are dipping into that market," Robbie Whelan reports in the WSJ, in pursuits of the elusive double-digit ROI. There's plenty of pickings: "At the end of May, 3.5 million loans were at least 90 days delinquent or in foreclosure, according to investment bank Barclays Capital," we're informed. Home ownerships rates have declined to 65.9% in the second quarter of 2011 from as peak of 69.2% in 2004.

Finally, there's a new study that finds that a "Healthful Diet May Be Too Costly For Some Americans," Roberto Daza reports in the Seattle Times.

Researchers at the University of Washington School of Public Health "matched food consumption with prices at three of Washington's largest supermarket chains -- Albertsons, Safeway and Quality Food Centers -- and determined how much it would cost to swap out some of the sugar-laden and fatty foods for the fresh fruits, veggies and whole-grain breads pushed in the dietary guidelines" recently released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture.

"For many families it's still too costly to build their diets around fresh vegetables and fruit," concludes Pablo Monsivais, lead author of the study, which was published in the August issue of Health Affairs.

But in the spirit of the day, that means that a healthful diet is not too costly for others, right? Namely, our pals who are snapping up those $775 platform pumps when they could be had for $185 on the Internet. "Qu'ils mangent de la Twinkies," as Marie Antoinette would have said had she ever had the pleasure

2 comments about "The Rich Are Richer Than You And Me".
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  1. Diane Dzurochak from NONE, August 4, 2011 at 10:17 a.m.

    A resurgence in luxury markets alone can't reseed the US economy! How nice for all those people (and the companies they shop at) who can afford obscene purchases and to eat right. The rest of us have been decimated by corporate and right-wing greed and that tiny fragment of luxury retail isn't going to create jobs for the masses, or re-train hundreds of thousands. Most of them produce their merch overseas as well, yes? I'm all for a little optimism, but honestly, I can't see how this glimmer is going to change my existence any more than giving Mark Cuban tax breaks on his 3 corporate jets.

  2. Laurence Bernstein from Protean Strategies, August 4, 2011 at 2:52 p.m.

    Interesting and thought provoking column. Yes, the rich are richer, mostly. there was an article in some paper yesterday about the boom in luxury hotel rooms in London.

    However, the people who are disappointed at not being able to find the "$775 Christian Louboutin "Bianca" platform pumps" at Neiman Marcus will be pleased to know that the same pimps are available for $185 at Just Styles, the site linked to in the article.

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