Looking for Luxury

From diamond-encrusted world phones to luxury vacations, the high-end shopper is expected to keep upscale merchants happy this holiday season.

With aggressive markdowns at better retailers such as Saks, coupled with a greater selection of unique and one-of-a-kind merchandise from luxury designers and boutiques, high-net worth individuals are expected to spend -- and spend more this season.

According to the Luxury Institute, the wealthy “will do their gift buying based largely on a company’s reputation and standing with fellow wealthy consumers.” Check out the lists below to see where the uber-rich are shopping, what they’re buying and where they stay when they get away.

“It’s more about brand and value,” says Patricia Norins, founder and publisher of Specialty Retail magazine, a niche publication that follows the sector. “They aren’t really concerned with price.”

For example, a loyal customer of Coach, used to average one new handbag purchase a year. Now, says Norin, “they are averaging four bags a year; they change up for every season”. Coach handbags typically retail for around $200.

Eye-popping offerings this holiday season include a GG Quad Swiss Motorcycle for $56,465 available through Neiman Marcus’ perennial Christmas Book, a customized “Fashion Design Party” for kids offered by FAO Schwartz for $25,000 and a $485,000 mechanical watch by the German, family-owned company A. Lange & Sohne. Originally producing watches for royalty, the company has become a cult-classic on Wall Street. The exclusive nature of the watches (the company produces around 4,500 a year) makes them all the more desirable.

Industry analysts and luxury industry observers also credit the pending surge in spending to lower energy costs (which has left consumers with a lot more discretionary income) and despite the current slump, the decade-long boom in the housing sector. Increasing home values over the past few years allowed many to essentially take cash out of their homes through a variety of methods.

Retailers are credited with enhancing and tailoring their offerings for the luxury-seeking set. “Wholesalers and retailers see the opportunities and they’ve created the products to capture the disposable income that’s out there,” said Norin.

And as retailers, both in store and online, up the ante on offerings, analysts say the sky just may be the limit.