Is this the Year of the Recessionista?

Lianna Brinded |Special to

The current global slowdown is hitting those in every economic category, as even the very wealthy rein in spending.

Bankers are losing their bonuses, rich foreigners are losing their perks in tax havens such as Zurich and companies around Europe have already faced bankruptcy and insolvency.

And that is taking its toll on luxury goods makers.

"We have clearly seen an impact in the luxury goods sector, which we have never seen before on a global scale," Rene Weber, a luxury goods analyst from Vontobel, said.

In the US, year on year, there has been a double-digit drop in sales growth, Weber said.

In November, growth fell by 25 percent and in December and the holiday period it was still more than a 20 percent slump.

Recently, the world's second-largest luxury group, Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy said it would not give an outlook but still aimed to keep 2009 sales relatively constant against 2008.

And speculation that the illustrious 'Fashion Rocks' event would be cancelled this year due to cost cutting procedures only shows no one's safe from the credit crunch.

Sharon Lorimer

But is the more careful spending opening widening the market for top-of-the-range, long-lasting, high-quality goods?

Brewing Up New Revenue Ideas

Recently, premium Italian beer company Peroni Nastro Azzurro unveiled a new venture with independent fashion designer Antonio Berardi to deliver high-end luxury products to the rich, starting with the "ultimate" travel accessory: a unisex Palmellato leather travel bag.

"In these difficult and uncertain times we believe craftsmanship, authenticity and timelessness will be more important for brands," spokespeople for Peroni said.

SAB Miller, parent company of Peroni, reported a 28 percent rise in profit before tax and a 4 percent rise in revenue in its interim 2009 result announcement and may have caught onto another avenue for extra revenue.

"In luxury goods, leather products, which include handbags and bags, have seen the least decline," Weber said. "It is not growing but it's not falling by double-digit numbers like the middle-end of the market, which mainly consists of watches."

End of Throwaway Culture?

"People will spend that $500 on a handbag if it's special," Berardi said. "The kind of people buying Versace for instance aren't the kind of people going to wait in line for the day of the sales to get a reduction. They are the people skiing in St Mauritz or on a yacht somewhere".

Berardi told CNBC his recent collection of furs went down "phenomenally."

"The credit crunch is not affecting high fashion," he said. "I think we are carrying on doing what we do, we don't play it safe, at least not me personally."

The company said 'it is the end of the throwaway culture".

"People are wearing lots of color and want to wear color," Berardi added. "Usually during a depression, people want to wear blacks and grays but people are trying to be optimistic and hopeful and the fashion shows it."