Avoiding the Bumps: No Slowdown Ahead For Booming Luxury

The luxury engine just keeps purring and industry executives and analysts haven't been this upbeat about the upscale market since the Nineties.

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But regarding the longer term outlook for the high-end department stores, the picture is murky. In reviewing Neiman Marcus' second-quarter results earlier this month, Citigroup analyst Deborah Weinswig said the retailer's exposure to the "high-end customer and high concentration of sales are a risk."

"The average Neiman Marcus customer generates an average household income of approximately $200,000 to $300,000 and sales are highly concentrated among its top InCircle customers," Weinswig said. "InCircle customers represent only about 10 percent of the customer base, but generate approximately 50 percent of total company sales. We view this heavy concentration of sales as a risk, particularly if Neiman Marcus' core customer pares back on spending."

For the moment, though, that doesn't appear to lie ahead. David Yurman, ceo and designer of the eponymous named jewelry company, believes the luxury boom just won't quit. "The luxury market will continue to grow at a strong pace."

Fred Wilson, chairman and ceo of Saks Fifth Avenue, agreed. "There will be downturns, and there are certainly glitches in any business trend, but over the long haul, we think there will be consistent growth," he said.
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