NEW YORK — Purchases by affluent Americans of apparel they considered a personal luxury decreased by 27 percent in the third quarter — a far steeper slide than the 1.6 percent dip in their spending on luxury products and services overall.
That’s according to a luxury-spending report released Tuesday by Unity Marketing, which found that, among 1,171 luxury consumers, an average of $1,247 was expended per household on such apparel in the third quarter, down from $1,715 on average a year earlier.
Those surveyed, a group with average incomes of $142,400 and at an average age of 42.9, were asked by Unity Marketing if, in the three months ended Sept. 30, they had purchased any of a range of luxury products and services, including apparel, fashion accessories, wines and spirits, electronics, art, furniture, dining and travel, among other things.
The group’s outlays for fashion accessories saw an even sharper decline in the third quarter, falling 31 percent to $768 a household, on average, compared with an average of $1,118 in the prior-year period.
In contrast, consumer spending on luxury products and services overall in the third quarter eased just 1.6 percent to $14,534 from $14,776.
The consumption declines came against a backdrop of the biggest plunge in luxury consumers’ confidence in the past eight quarters, the time in which Unity Marketing has composed its Luxury Consumption Index, begun back in December 2003. Confidence in affluent circles fell to 94.4 points, the index indicated, versus 96 a year earlier and 104.4 in the second quarter. Pamela N. Danziger, president of luxury specialist Unity Marketing, blamed a flurry of factors such as storms like Hurricane Katrina, escalating energy prices, the withdrawal of the Harriet Meiers nomination to the Supreme Court and the indictment of I. Lewis Libby, former chief aide of Vice President Dick Cheney, in the Valerie Plame scandal, for creating a sense that life is “floating out of control.”
“You turn on the news and you get the feeling nobody’s in charge,” Danziger said. “Consumers, and particularly luxury consumers, like to be in control. Luxury consumers have a lot of money invested, and depending on how they feel about their investments, their [luxury spending] may be affected.”
In fact, in assessing the country’s “overall health” compared with the second quarter, half the luxury crowd said it was worse, 31 percent said it was the same and 11 percent said it was better.
Slightly more than a third, or 36 percent, of the households studied said they’d made a purchase of apparel they deemed a personal luxury in the third quarter, down from 40 percent a year earlier, while 26 percent bought luxurious fashion accessories, off from 29 percent in the third quarter of 2004. For both the apparel and accessories, department stores were the most common points of purchase, followed by fashion boutiques and the Internet.