The nation’s top metro areas ranked by the highest percentages of women who make upscale purchases.

It’s no surprise big cities have the highest percentage of women who buy luxury goods. What is surprising, though, is which cities emerge on top. Chicago, once known more for its grit than its goods, tied with Los Angeles for first place. Buxton, a retail research firm based in Fort Worth, Tex., looked at households likely to spend money on upscale retail fashion categories, including women’s clothing, fine jewelry, watches and purses.= Rich Hollander, president of Buxton’s Customer ID section, observed that “people who are fashion-conscious tend to cluster together.” Cities like St. Louis and Pittsburgh, which ranked 19th and 20th on the list, respectively, missed the cut, but they still scored above the 100 benchmark that serves as the weighted average.

Upscale Retail Spending Index: 245
The largest city in the Midwest tied with the largest in the West for the top slot. The reason: Many designers and specialty retailers covet Chicago for its lush market. Among them, Barneys New York and Barneys Co-op are considering Chicago as a site for new flagships, and Marc by Marc Jacobs is reportedly looking for digs in the area. The city’s famous Marshall Field’s, which was bought by Federated Department Stores in February, will be reinvented as a Macy’s flagship this summer. It joins Neiman Marcus, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and many other notable names on Chicago’s Northside mecca, Magnificent Mile, which attracts 22 million visitors a year.

Index: 245
Andy Warhol once likened Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills to “a giant butterscotch sundae.” And with good reason: Fashion divas scoop up goods in stores like BCBG Max Azria, Chanel, Gucci and Prada, all located side by side on Rodeo Drive and within the shopping center Two Rodeo. More high-end stores are fanning out throughout Los Angeles, as well. WWD reported earlier this spring that the J. Crew-owned brand Madewell plans to open a second store, stocked with “timeless and ageless” merchandise, according to the company, this August. Barneys New York plans to open its contemporary apparel offshoot Co-op in spring 2007.

This story first appeared in the July 27, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Index: 233
Did someone say luxury retail? New York City ranks third, and it’s fitting, considering the fashion powerhouses chockablock on upper Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue. Nestled among luxe purveyors like Henri Bendel, Fendi and Gucci is Louis Vuitton’s milky-white glass 20,000-square-foot flagship, which was once an Art Deco bank. On upper Madison, Barney’s flagship anchors the pricy neighborhood that includes an expanded, low-rise Giorgio Armani store. Anne Klein, which shuttered its SoHo store in 2002, is reenergizing its line with nine new stores throughout New York City in the next several months.

Index: 220
Booming wealth in upscale suburbs of Virginia and Maryland make the nation’s capital a key destination for high-end retail customers. And, this May, a slew of new upscale specialty stores, including Christian Dior, Jimmy Choo and MaxMara, opened in the Collection, designed by world-class architects and sporting a 9,000-square-foot sculpture garden, in Chevy Chase, Md. And WWD reported that Neiman Marcus will launch its new Cusp stores at Tyson’s Corner in McLean, Va., with its 9,500-square-foot venue. Virginia is known for pioneering the luxe movement; the Fairfax Square mall brought Hermès to the area in the Nineties.

Index: 211
The City of Brotherly Love also loves its specialty boutiques and upscale department stores. WWD reported that Federated Department stores this August is opening a new Macy’s in the historic John Wanamaker flagship, which housed the nation’s first department store, in downtown Philadelphia. But there are also many “mom-and-pop” trendy boutiques in Philadelphia, such as Petula’s Folly on Sansom Street, which offers lines from Nicole Farhi and Habitual Jeans, and Crash Bang Boom on South Fourth Street, which sells punk-rock clothing labels from Lip Service and Lucky 13.

Index: 209
Orange County is one of the most affluent spots in California. Composed of chic oceanside enclaves like Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, the county is considered by many retailers to be an essential market for luxury branding. Shopping centers in the area abound near million-dollar homes. Well, why not: A 2002 U.S. Census report said that retail sales per capita were $12,205 in Orange County, compared with $10,264 in the state of California. Take South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, one of the top luxury-goods malls in the country. It sports Armani, Chanel and Fendi outposts among many others. A Blomingdale’s store is slated to open there next spring.

Index: 208
Think Hamptons and Gold Coast chic when Nassau and Suffolk counties in New York come to mind. Suffolk contains much-ballyhooed names like Southampton and East Hampton, where celebrities like Steven Spielberg have homes. Nassau County, on the north shore of Long Island, was reported to be the sixth-richest county in the U.S., according to the 2000 U.S. census report. The Americana Manhasset shopping center here is a 220,000-square-foot, open-air venue that features upscale brands like CH Carolina Herrara, Fendi, Hermès, Oscar de la Renta and Valentino.

Index: 206
The metropolitan area of Detroit spans roughly 2,026 miles and is made up of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. The city is known for auto giants like General Motors Corp. and Ford. But nearby Troy is much better known among shoppers for its upscale shopping center, the Somerset Collection, which offers valet parking and gift wrapping. Stores inside the 1.45 million-square-foot center, which has marble floors and cascading waterfalls, include MaxMara, Gucci and St. Johns Boutique. This fall, Barneys New York plans to open a Co-op store in Troy. Some of Detroit’s wealthiest inhabitants call Grosse Pointe home, and it has specialty shops like Boutique Bellissima.

Index: 201
Head to the Twin Cities to shop at the country’s largest shopping complex, aptly named Mall of America. Inside the massive 2.5 million-square-foot space, which houses an amusement park and a walk-through aquarium, sit over 520 stores anchored by Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom. The 12-floor, pedestrian-friendly Nicollet Mall — Mary Tyler Moore famously threw her hat into the air on one of the walkways — is tucked in downtown Minneapolis. Upscale retailers include Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Index: 197
When inhabitants of California’s eighth-largest city go looking for luxury goods, they travel under and over the bay. Thus, a recent petition circulating in Oakland had a rare mercantile twist: It favored bringing a department store to downtown. There are many fine retail possibilities in the Bay Area. On Berkeley’s fashionable Fourth Street lie one-of-a-kind boutiques like Isabelle (luxe European lingerie), Lilith (soigné French apparel) and Margaret O’Leary (handmade sweaters). Across the bay in San Francisco, there are luxe stores like Gucci and Louis Vuitton housed alongside Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus on landmark Union Square, the third largest shopping area in the U.S.

Source: buxton, a customer analytics firm based in fort worth, tex. *INDICATES A TIE. =The number of households that fell into these categories wAS Divided by the total household count for the Metropolitan statistical area to determine the percentage that exhibited upscale retail fashion purchase behavior. this msa was then multiplied by the number of women over age 18.

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