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Luxury Buyer, Beware

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Luxury retailers, beware: Shoppers are suffering a bad case of ennui, and they're not likely to get well soon. Causes for their illness include everything from rising oil prices to slumping housing prices to "a lack of confidence in the political process in both major parties and in the executive and legislative branches of government," according to folks who study high-end shoppers and the retailers they love. And the Chicago Tribune this morning offers proof of the ennui sweeping the land: Neiman Marcus is having a sale. Why come?

The Dallas-based department store experienced a year-over-year decline in its fiscal first-quarter gross margin rate (profit after subtracting the costs of goods sold) in the wake of tepid reaction to some of its women's designer apparel.

"We have experience with this," Tansky said during the call. "We've gone through it before. This customer does not trade down, she does not change venues, she does not leave us. What she does, if in fact this continues to be challenging -- we're not sure it will be, not sure it all will be -- she'll buy a little less."

The good news is, Neiman Marcus is selling $745 Manolo Blahnik strap sandals "for a relative steal at about $400." I just found your Christmas present for this year. --Robert Wilonsky

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