How to Bring in Luxury Shoppers—And Keep Them Happy

The rules of engagement in the luxury sector are tougher than ever.For a while, it seemed the “new normal” for the luxury market would resemble the old one. Upscale retailers like Nordstrom, ­Tiffany & Co., and Saks Fifth Avenue logged impressive sales jumps in the first half of 2010, reflecting pent-up demand that came spilling out when affluent consumers finally opened their wallets after two years of uncustomary frugality. But then…something changed. In June, MasterCard’s SpendingPulse report, which estimates total U.S. retail sales, announced that luxury spending fell for the first time since November. By July, sales of fine jewelry were down 13 percent, according to the same metric. No one is sure why consumers put on the brakes again, but as with the overall economy, improvement in the high-end will likely occur in fits and starts. Ken Ross/ Fine

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