U.S. sees return of the ‘aspirational consumer’

Isaac Mostovicz writes that Thetas are regaining their confidence to spend more lavishly, however true recovery won't be felt until Lambda personalities get involved, too...

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This past weekend, the Financial Times published a report that gives some insight into the slow growth that is happening in the U.S. luxury and high-end retail industries:

Richard Hastings, retail strategist at Global Hunter Securities, said that roughly half of the 80 per cent of Americans fully employed were not affected by the depressed housing market and were now more ready to spend as they had become less concerned about their own jobs.

This could be seen as a a quickening of the pace of economic recovery in the U.S. I wrote previously that the trends happening in places such as Silicon Valley suggests that Americans with expendable income are regaining the confidence to spend it.

Tracey Travis, chief financial officer of Polo Ralph Lauren, said the change in climate has mean the company has “slowly begun to see the gradual return of our core luxury customer”.

Conclusions are being drawn from the release of January retail sales figures.

The monthly sales numbers offered further indications of returning demand for prestige and luxury goods, with Saks and Neiman Marcus, the luxury fashion department stores, reporting increases of 6.8 per cent and 7 per cent, respectively

….

Neiman Marcus, which operates about 43 luxury fashion stores serving the most affluent US consumers, said that its strongest categories included women’s couture clothing and precious jewellery.

This isn’t a return to form for the Lambda personalities. Rather, the Thetas are opening their wallets for the high end items that they denied themselves in the last year, whether out of frugality or a desire not to be seen spending lavishly while others suffered.

However a small up-tick in sales won’t be enough to level out the market to pre-recession levels. Only after sustained growth over a number of quarters would be it be wise to begin thinking that the luxe industry has begun a full recovery.

For that to happen, Lambda personalities will need to get in on the action. Reports suggest that may be happening soon. But, given the number of false dawns we’ve seen during the recession, real recovery must be seen to be believed.

[...] Dr. Issac Mostovicz, a consulting academic with insights into drivers of human behavior in practical business situations, reports in the current issue of ‘Janus Thinking’ that he sees that the US is seeing the return of the ‘aspirational consumer.” “Trends happening in places such as Silicon Valley suggest that American’s with expendable income are regaining the confidence to spend it.” This conclusion is based on January 2010 retail sales figures. “The monthly sales numbers offered further indications of returning demand for prestige and luxury goods, with Saks and Neiman Marcus, the luxury fashion department stores, reporting increases of 6.8 per cent and 7 per cent, respectively.” [...]

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