Recession On The Catwalk?

If you’re looking for some peace and quiet, maybe go shopping. Those high end stores are virtually empty.

Well, that might be a little dramatic but it appears that in this downturn, even the rich are learning to do without.

It’s true that luxury chains such as Neiman Marcus, Saks and Nordstrom were doing better than many retailers for much of last year, as their wealthier customers were less hurt by rising gasoline prices and mortgage payments.

But that changed after September, when the banking crisis cut into the investment portfolios of the wealthiest consumers. Since then, even these high-end retailers have used heavy markdowns to attract shoppers.

It looks like frugal is the new black. Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail consulting firm, says she is seeing a "values correction" among affluent consumers. "We're hearing consumers tell us, 'I used to care about designer brands and now I don't."

According to CNBC’s Margaret Brennan there’s a glimmer of good news here. The trade down trend will likely continue. In other words, big designers are going to have to make their collections more affordable and more accessible. "Nobody can afford a $6,000 hand bag anymore," she says.

If you’re looking for a retail play, the traders suggest steering clear of the luxury brands. Instead they're keeping an eye on Wal-Mart . In fact, earlier in the week a Citi analyst told us it was almost a perfect stock.(Click here to read that story.)

"The business model that Sam Walton created is perfectly positioned for the environment we live in now; I do believe this is Wal-Mart's time," says the company's CEO Michael Duke.

Otherwise in retail, Karen Finerman tells the panel she owns a little bit of Nike and Foot Locker "because they have strong balance sheets."

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Trader disclosure: On Feb. 19th, 2008, the following stocks and commodities mentioned or intended to be mentioned on CNBC’s Fast Money were owned by the Fast Money traders; Seymour Owns (AAPL), (BAC), (EEM), (FXI), (PBR), (TM); Seymour's Firm Owns (VIP); Terranova Owns (KCE), (XBI), (AMGN), (FXC), (DIS); Terranova Owns (AMGN) Puts; Terranova Owns (IBM) & (IBM) Call Spread; Finerman's Firm Owns (RIG), (MSFT), (NKE), (FL); Finerman's Firm Owns (DNA) & (DNA) Call Spreads; Finerman's Firm Is Short (IYR), (IJR), (IWM), (MDY), (SPY), (USO), (BBT), (VNO); Najarian Owns (CELG); Najarian Owns (EEM) Call Spread, (GDX) Call Spread, (GLD) Call Spread, (MOS) Call Spread, (STI) Call Spread; Najarian Owns (AMAT) Put Spread, (CHK) Put Spread; Najarian Owns (FCX) & (FCX) Calls; Najarian Owns (GS) Calls; Najarian Owns (GE) Puts; Najarian Owns (HPQ) Spread; Najarian Owns (MSFT) & (MSFT) Short Calls; Najarian Owns (MS) & (MS) Short Calls; Najarian Owns (WFC) & (WFC) Calls