"Consumers don't lose their love of designers and luxury just because they can't afford it," says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst with NPD Group.
The good news is that many highbrow brands have been paying attention. Companies like Coach (COH) and Tiffany (TIF) have spent the past couple years expanding their offering of products even the hoi polloi can afford.
"When the recession hit, it's no secret that a number of retailers and brands that had high-end purchasers were concerned that discretionary spending was going to contract," says John Long, retail strategist at New York-based Kurt Salmon Associates. "Many of these companies decided to extend their price points in order to have more entry-level products for their customers."
With that in mind, here's a list of high-end brands that are making sure their loyal customers can take their products home without remortgaging the house:
If the world-renowned jewelry retailer wasn't selling its garden flower diamond necklace for $48,000, that would really be something to be worry about. Still, Tiffany silver dog tags can be had for $80 as long as it doesn't land the gift giver in the dog house. And if it does, he can still get a Tiffany beer glass for $20 to help drown his sorrow.
Home of the $1,400 handbag, Coach also sells a Poppy heart-shaped stick pin for $38, while a waverly coated canvas mini skinny wallet for $38 may do double duty of getting him a gift from Coach while dropping a heavy-duty hint.
Buying her that leather-paneled Burberry trench coat for $7,995 might put everyone outdoors for the winter. Better to get a twill silk tie for $140. Or if that rainy day you've saved up for has already gone by, a Mega Check umbrella for $125 may do the trick.
Sure, it would be great to tell your friends about the Gucci crocodile skin tote bag you just bought for $13,000. Better, though, to keep the car and buy either some Envy Oriental 'Woody' fragrance for $55 or maybe a 13-inch by 13-inch horsebit print pocket square for $125.
The devil may wear them, and if she can afford $750 woven leather pumps, or he a $3,320 leather jacket, all power to them. For the rest of us with a fix, a striped silk coin purse (pictured above) at $80 may have to do.
Does that Sofia Coppola Louis Vuitton leather satchel for $3,270 get lost in translation? Laugh it off, and get a comics print bandana for $170.
A $2,500 pair of Ralph Lauren beaded velvet boots at Ralph Lauren (RL) may be made for walkin' but not for buyin' this year. Show off your nose for a better bargain with a $45 Holiday Classic candle scented with evergreen, currants and juniper berries. Or even Polo socks for the low low price of $14.
With Cartier selling its gold and diamond-encrusted brooch shaped like a panther for $63,000, you might as well buy a Jaguar instead. But a twill silk ladybug scarf, while at $130, still gets you in the door. And a $120 money clip may be good for a guy who may actually still be in position to use it.
Dolce & Gabbana
Those $1,870 Dolce & Gabbana fur boots might scare the dog, not to mention your accountant. Instead, go with a fabric bag, which actually has a picture of another fabric bag on it, for $172, and you can sort of get two for the price of one. For him, D&G skivvies go for $23. The rest of the wardrobe can wait until times get better.