Crisis pushes men to therapy, women to handbags

Wed Aug 5, 2009 10:00am EDT
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By Katie Reid and Silke Koltrowitz

ZURICH (Reuters Life!) - The desire to sport a different handbag for every occasion is shielding the largest makers of luxury leather goods from the economic crisis as women prove to be more consistent spenders than men.

Louis Vuitton and Hermes bags are still amongst the most sought-after luxury products compared with weak demand for watches, a traditionally male-dominated sector.

Gender marketing expert Diana Jaffe said the uncertainty about jobs caused by the economic slump posed a threat to male identity, prompting men to cut back on spending. Meanwhile, women are taking steps to cheer themselves up with a treat.

"Women are also worried about their jobs, but not to the extent that they feel their mere existence is being threatened and so they are in the mood to buy despite the crisis," Jaffe said.

Some men have stopped themselves from splurging on flashy goods that could be deemed as tasteless during times of austerity, while others don't have the capacity to think about spending on luxury items, Jaffe said.

"Many male managers are suffering from a huge loss of status, many feel under an enormous amount of pressure or are suffering from burnout. They just don't have the resources to think about buying luxury goods and prefer to go to a life coach," she said.

Banks, insurers and asset managers have slashed nearly 400,000 jobs worldwide since the credit crisis started to intensify in August 2007, hitting retailers who cater to the luxury-loving professional classes.

Swiss watch exports slumped 26 percent in the first half of the year and the industry is grappling with the sharpest drop in demand in some 20 years, while French luxury goods group Hermes posted a 28 percent rise in first-half sales in its leather goods and saddlery unit.   Continued...

<p>Shoppers browse racks of clothes during a sale at a David Jones department store in Sydney June 3, 2009. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne</p>