Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Rich Get Richer

HELLO GORGEOUS!!  Holiday shopping at South Coast Plaza, Rodeo Drive, the Beverly Center, or on Melrose  made me feel like I had died and gone to heaven!  And lucky for us shoppers, this sector of the retail pie is thriving as the recession pulls away.  shopper-image

The recent income trends bode very well for luxury good retailers because the U.S. is undergoing a transition not seen before in our history.   In the past 30 years, income inequality in the United States has skyrocketed. While middle incomes grew during the 1990’s, the trend reversed course during the early 2000’s. Middle-class incomes continued to fall well into the economic recovery and never regained their high achieved in 2001.

Figure 1, below provides a view of income inequality peaks. The top line provides the percent of total income held by the top 10 percent of the population. What is most striking is what has occurred in the past three decades. In 1978, the wealthiest one percent of the population earned about 10 percent of total income; by 2008, this group was earning two hundred percent more, or almost 21 percent. Strikingly, the wealthiest 0.1 percent of the households, those with annual income of $1.7 million or more in 2008, grew to account for 12 percent of total income, from 4 percent in 2004.

Figure 1 Income-inequality-peaks-1917-2008

Further evidence of this uneven growth is seen in Figure 2, below. From 1967 through 2010, the top quartile representing average household income grew or got significantly more affluent, while the bottom two quintiles remained almost flat.

Figure 2 Income_inequality_2

As the wealthiest in the United States were gaining, an increasingly larger share of the national income pie, expenditures on luxury goods thrived. According to Bain and Company’s Luxury Goods Worldwide Market Study for 2012 global luxury goods are defying concerns over Eurozone upheaval and fears of a slowdown in emerging markets, with an average of 8 percent annual increase in global sales through the middle of the decade, 2015.

The United States luxury goods market, as part of this trend is predicted to grow by five to seven percent in 2012.

The average age of the Japanese, European and United States customer is increasing, while the Chinese consumer average age is decreasing. This is creating a generation of luxury consumers with different tastes. More women are buying business clothes and watches, creating new markets for luxury retailers. Men are becoming increasingly “metro”, spending on beauty/skin products and fashion, products generally reserved for women. Luxury goods were once the province of “old money” but the sector is now being supported by households newly arrived in the upper income categories. Further, the emergence of premium and “cheap-chic” brands are forcing luxury brands to offer more directly and consider/offering lower priced segments for these consumers. “Omnichannel” marketing, bringing together social media, e-commerce and mobile devices, is forcing these brands to rush into this segment or lose ground. Overall, the segment is showing growth significantly above conventional retail.

As evidence of the growth of retail in the United States, year over year growth in the overall holiday spending in the sector and “GAFO” is given in the following text table:


While overall sales were declining or growing marginally, the luxury sector was thriving and is expected to continue to grow for the next five years.  What will happen to our society as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer?


It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!


If you are like most Americans, you feel better this year, but there is still a nagging doubt in the back of your mind, “is this as good as it gets?”  True, the economy has picked up, spending is up, the recession is no more, but we are still feeling the pinch.  How shall we shop for Christmas this year?


We did some digging to find out how much has changed and how much has stayed the same.

The following figures provide some context for the economic growth since before the recession until after, with per capita GDP not yet recovered to pre-2008 levels:


The gross domestic product increased from $13.3 trillion in 2007 to $15.1 trillion in 2012.

united-states-gdp 06-12

GAFO retail sales seem to be slowly recovering from the recession, and consumers are spending again.  Consumer confidence is back up to about 73 percent of what it was in 2006, but spending at shopping centers is ACTUALLY DOWN in real constant dollars (adjusted for inflation):

united-states-consumer-confidence 08-12

GAFO retail sales in the nation increased from $968 billion in 2002 to $1,032 billion in 2010,  for a compound average growth rate of 1.1 percent.  However, from 2007 to 2010, compound average growth was  -.03 percent nationally.

As everyone knows, brick-and-mortar stores are in competition with internet retailers for market share.   With the ease of shopping online in the comfort of your home or office, and the ability to compare sale prices amongst retailers, the brick-and-mortar stores have to come up with creative ways to appeal to the consumer as the better way to shop drawing them to their retail store locations.  Some retailers are offering free shipping, extended hours along with other special promotional items available only in stores.

Electronic shopping and mail order retailers suffered only a mild set back during the recession and bounded back with sales for the twelve months through February 2012 accounting for $308 billion.  The overall sales market rose 30 percent since the peak in 2008 as reported in an article, “Retail Sales Recover, Mostly, From Recession”, written in The New York Times, by Floyd Norris.

One of the biggest impacts of the recession on the retail market is the change in the behavior of shoppers.  People are bargain shopping and looking for the biggest bang for their buck.  They are more interested in products or items that are reliable and have lasting value rather than purchasing the latest gadgets.

Consumers are looking to save money where possible, which has increased on-line shopping as well as sales at discount and dollar stores such as Wal-Mart, 99 Cent stores and Target.  Not only are shoppers finding better bargains, they are saving time and money especially when factoring savings of not having to drive with high gas prices.

Target shoppers

The recession has also caused a spike in sales at thrift shops/resale stores,  as  the number of resale shops opened within the last year increased approximately seven percent.

According to comScore.Inc,  holiday retail spending over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend was estimated at $59.1 billion dollars nationally, up nearly 13 percent over last year.   Black Friday online sales exceeded $1 billion, rising 26 percent to $1.04 billion.

How do you feel this year?  Let us know if your pocketbook feels lighter or if you are back to normal.  Have we stabilized at the new normal? We are anxious to hear from you!