"People are sick of saving — it's not fun," said Cindy Novotny, 54, who co-owns a consulting firm with her husband. "2009 I shopped in my closet, and I said I'm over that."
After snapping shut their designer wallets during the recession, luxury shoppers are making a big comeback. Gone are the drastic cost-cutting measures by high-end retailers, who are now reporting renewed fervor for handbags, shoes, jewelry and other indulgences at full price.
U.S. retail sales overall are expected to rise about 3.5% this year, but the trend is even stronger at the high end, with a projected 7% jump over 2009.
That's an encouraging sign for the overall economy because affluent shoppers wield outsized spending power. The richest 20% of households account for nearly 40% of total consumer spending in the U.S., said Michael Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers.
Their pent-up desire to spend money is being abetted by the stock market rally, a more stable jobs picture for those who are still employed, and expectations that the economy will continue to show steady, if slow, improvement.
In recent weeks, some of the nation's best-known luxury retailers, including Neiman Marcus, Saks and Nordstrom, have reported a surge in traffic and sales.
Wall Street likes what it sees. Shares of Tiffany, Coach, Hermes and LVMH, Louis Vuitton's parent company, are all up more than 45% this year, compared with 11% for the broad Standard & Poor's 500 index.