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KAI RYSSDAL: From New York City today, some fresh evidence that the bad economy is hitting the high end, too. Henri Bendel announced it’s going to stop selling clothing at its flagship store on Fifth Avenue this summer.
What’s that you say? You’ve never heard of Bendels? Me neither, until this morning. So clearly we haven’t been watching enough “Gossip Girl.” But apparently those $3,000 prom dresses just aren’t selling as well these days. Luxury retailers have been cutting costs and laying off staff, as Marketplace’s Amy Scott reports.
Amy Scott: Starting this summer, Bendel’s devotees will have to buy their $200 jeans and peasant tops elsewhere. The legendary boutique is closing its third floor, and focusing on makeup and accessories. Outside the flagship today, I found Christine Lohmuller wearing two shirts from Bendel’s. She’s a student in fashion school.
Christine Lohmuller: I only get to go shopping here when my mom comes but…
Jewelry designer Marcia Chun-Matsubara was unfazed.
Marcia Chun-Matsubara: They’re only known for makeup and accessories. I don’t ever look at clothes. I didn’t even think they sold clothes.
No re-branding necessary there. The real problem for luxury stores is too few luxury shoppers. Retail strategist Candace Corlett:
Candace Corlett: When we were in the mood to just go out and shop and buy everything that caught our eye, that’s where you’d go. But now we’ve become a lot more restrained. And Bendel’s is a store of lots of indulgences.
In New York, I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.