I was shocked yesterday to read of the decline in sales of luxury handbags.
We might be going through a bit of a sticky patch at the moment, but when all is said and done, we're talking about handbags for goodness sake - not luxury yachts. You can't tell me that the sort of person who was prepared to pay £11,000 for a Burberry handbag last year is any poorer today - or at least not in any way that makes sense to the rest of us.
No - there's something else going on here. I suspect the reason for the decline - and it's not just handbags. Apparently the blight extends to watches, haute couture, lamborghinis and so on - is that it's no longer quite 'cool' to be seen flaunting this kind of stuff. On a more day-to-day level - who hasn't glanced at the suddenly ridiculous 4x4 in the supermarket car park - all smoked-glass and bull-bars - and quietly thought: 'Loser!'
Incidentally, while researching this piece, I came across the web page of something called The Luxury Institute - www.luxuryinstitute.com
(motto: The Knowledge of Luxury, the Luxury of Knowledge)
to read that: 'As the luxury industry enters 2009, some luxury executives look like deer caught in the headlights.' Lovely touch that - how, even in metaphor the luxury executive feels compelled to enlist the help of a superior animal. Rabbits in the headlights might be good enough for the rest of us but for the luxury executive only the finest deer will suffice.
I can't resist just one further quote from this priceless web site:
'... we now also expect many discredited Wall Street executives to turn a new leaf in an effort to save family legacies and reputations and get into the high-end philanthropy game (my emphasis). It's not much fun for kids to have the wealthiest parents in private school when everyone knows they made their money in a Ponzi scheme that brought the world economy to its knees.'
Quite. I couldn't agree more; it must be absolutely frightful for them.
So brace yourselves for photo shoots of celebrities, dressed in the latest recycled clothing, doing a stint on the soup kitchen:
'In times like these, we must all share the pain, blah blah.'
That should serve to set the overall tone. The wannabes will follow.