The Return Of Luxury Retail

April 8, 2011

Sonari Glinton

Consumers spent more on retail goods in the first quarter than they did during the same time last year. That's despite higher gas prices, bad weather and a late Easter holiday.

Luxury retailers were the winners.

Retail analyst Marshal Cohen says the recession has left the consumer with "frugal fatigue."

"We're tired of being so frugal with what we're spending and at the least expensive place," he says.

A bunch retailers released their first quarter numbers this week.

High end fancy stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom all made money.

But Gap Inc., which owns the Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic chains, was down 10 Percent.

Cohen says people are getting pickier about where they spend their money. He calls it "distinctive conformity."

"The consumer today is very focused on buying product that doesn't make them one of a million but rather one in a million," he says.

Cohen says a customer might buy one pair of fancy jeans that no one else has, and then buy underwear, socks and shirts from a discount retailer. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.