"It's Like Christmas in here": Tourists Propping up the U.S. Luxury Market

One interesting thing about the luxury economy today in the U.S. is how much of it is being driven by tourists and non-residents. Another salient point: how the very wealthy have been largely immune to the current downturn.

An article in the LA Times about the shopping habits on Rodeo Drive brings both these points home. "Business has been crazy-great," said a manager of the Christofle shop just off of Rodeo Drive in LA - a purveyor of silver flatware and other furnishings. "It's like Christmas in here."

Apparently, the famed street of tony boutiques and celebrities has been annexed for the time being by flush foreigners. "Saudi princesses," confided a saleswoman at one Rodeo Drive clothing store. "That's who's doing all the buying." Where's US Weekly's article about how those poor starlets are feeling marginalized by all this?

And today, an article in the New York Sun reveals that a full third of New York condo sales are being grabbed up by Europeans who now constitute 15 percent of the entire market.

- Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who's new column in the SF Chronicle I am thoroughly enjoying, had this vignette about walking around the shops at Union Square:

"At Bloomingdale's - packed and nobody speaking English. Neiman Marcus - no English. And nobody, but nobody, was speaking English in Prada.
It's all Italian, Dutch, French, German and heavy, heavy Russian.

The Europeans are absolutely the biggest retail customers these days downtown, and they are spending like crazy."

But this could change, the dollar rose eight percent against the euro in the last month. Better grab those $10,000 silverware sets while you can.

But nativist shoppers, fear not - I heard nary a foreign tongue as I flipped through the sales rack at Gap.

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