Patron walks by Cartier store
Patron walks by Cartier store - 
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Doug Krizner: The crisis in the mortgage market has raised questions about the health of the consumer. This morning, we'll get a reality check: the monthly report on retail sales. As Marketplace's Steve Henn reports, the numbers could be skewed higher by the purchasing power of the rich.

Steve Henn: There's one part of the retail economy that definitely hasn't been feeling the pinch.

Kamalesh Rao follows luxury spending for MasterCard:

Kamalesh Rao: It's been a year of actually very good growth.

Rao says sales at high-end shops were growing at two or three times the rate of the rest of the economy.

And analyst Dana Telsey says the luxury market isn't slowing down.

Dana Talsey: We just got the results of both Bulgari and Richemont, which owns Cartier, Montblanc, many high-end brands. And there's been an acceleration even from the end of June through August so far.

But Brookings Institution economist Gary Burtless says spending at the top masks what's going on for the rest of us.

Gary Burtless: Our share of the total pie is getting smaller.

After all, the net effect of a thousand people skimping on school supplies can be obscured by one fat cat dropping a hundred grand on a watch.

In Washington, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.