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The Christmas Divide: Luxury Soars While Mass Still Struggles

This Christmas, luxury retailers are generating gains twice as high as mainstream retailers.

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In years past, there wasn’t nearly as much pre-spring and resort available in time for the holiday. Many of Missoni’s bestsellers are from the resort collection that arrived about 10 days ago, including a handmade crocheted coat at $2,900, and a tweed group including a coat, priced at $2,440, a jacket for $1,945, and trousers at $925.

“Last season was good, and the year before was fabulous. But this season has started off brilliantly,” Levbarg said. Moreover, selling pre-spring now doesn’t dampen spring sales later, she added, since different merchandise from runway shows arrives in February. “I see it as complementary,” she said. Missoni had a 10 percent sales increase in November, and hopes for a 20 percent gain in December.

At Luca Luca, “The product category doing best is eveningwear,” said Blackstone. “Since Thanksgiving we sold out all of our long gowns and cocktail dresses, primarily in silk satin and Swarovski crystal, priced $1,000 to $2,500.” Last month’s spring-summer collection trunk show doubled the year-ago volume for the event. Bestsellers included a hand-embroidered silk cocktail dress for $4,500, with 10 pieces sold. Also, eight lavender strapless gowns with hand-embroidered flowers for $4,900 were sold. “We saw an incline in sales right after the election,” Blackstone said. “I think people are feeling more settled and eager to spend most definitely for themselves, or they’re sending their husbands in to buy them their holiday gift from pre-spring.”

Bergdorf Goodman said sales are strongest with Vera Wang and Chanel cruise merchandise, and with such unusual pieces as Devi Krolle python bags, priced at $1,500, as well as one-of-a-kind items from Verdura and Kara Ross. This season, “the customer is even more interested in exclusive or one-of-a-kind items,” said Robert Burke, Bergdorf’s vice president and senior fashion director.

Deborah Weinswig, equity analyst with Citigroup Smith Barney, predicted that luxury retailers would generate 6 to 8 percent comp-store sales gains for the holiday season, compared with 3 to 4 percent for broadline retailers. “Bringing newness in is unbelievably important, more so than in the past,” she said. “The appetite for new products has continued to evolve. We are on a strong fashion cycle right now and higher-end retailers are doing a better job of translating that. A year ago, people were happy to wear black and charcoal gray. We really didn’t get color until last spring. Now people want something that looks more exciting, more fun — anything over the top.”
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