Luxury stores like Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and small designer boutiques are enjoying robust sales of $8,000 mink ponchos, $1,000 snakeskin handbags, $200 crystal-studded jeans and $25,000 bejeweled bangles as their well-heeled shoppers have benefited from a recovering economy.
An influx of foreign tourists taking advantage of the weakened U.S. dollar also has helped boost sales at high-end stores -- as has a fixation among some consumers, no matter what income, that they need products with status labels.
On the other hand, discounters like Wal-Mart and mid-level stores such as Sears Roebuck and Co. and May Department Stores all have struggled with tepid sales.
This holiday season is "a real struggle for a broad range of retailers, other than the high end, and that struggle has a lot to do with the economy," said Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers.
I know most of us have a hard time conceptualizing more reasons to consider some of the conservative power brokers in Washington contemptible, so let me provide another reason:
Chevy Chase, Md.-based Saks-Jandel, which has long catered to the Washington, D.C.-area elite, cited such best sellers as bejeweled handbags by Valentino, priced from $1,150 to $2,350, and patterned jackets by Etro, which sell from $1,150 to $2,350, according to Peter Marx, president.
"Things are good. They are trending really well," he said. Marx noted the store is doing a brisk business in sable fur coats, which sell from $50,000 to $80,000, as well as mink or fox wraps, which go for about $1,000.
Someday, perhaps, we will finally have the joy of watching Denny Hastert, crestfallen at the lack of chicken at the buffet, chew off his own limb, like a high-quality wild mink. THAT would be some justice.