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Luxury Spending Bounces Back Big in 2010: Bain Study

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Dismal economy? What dismal economy? No belt-tightening here—at least not if your belt is made of African ostrich leather. So says a new study released by Bain & Co. at the behest of Italy’s Fondazione Altagamma, the trade group for high-end producers.

In fact, if you’re wealthy, according to the study, you’re making up for all that lost time in 2009, when luxury sales dropped 8%, and maybe things didn’t look quite so rosy—all that self-denial has to be purged.

Luxury goods sales, including designer clothing, jewelry, watches and other items, are expected to gain 10% around the world, coming in at a hefty $236.7 billion; sales in the U.S. alone have jumped by 12%, with wealthy Americans, according to the survey, rebuilding wardrobes from a year of restraint. Europe gained 6%, but the real winner was Asia, surging by 22% and largely powered by “nouveau-riche Chinese” who have gone on an international spending spree; sales just in Asia alone were up by 30%. China is expected to become the third largest luxury market in just five years.

Large brands have done better than smaller ones, because they had enough scale to hang in through tough times. And men were doing more spending than women on clothing in emerging markets, with sales of luxury menswear outpacing women’s wear. In mature markets, the survey found, men are starting to imitate women in their spending, and not just for fancy watches or big-bash tuxedos.

Actually, you probably weren’t denying yourself that ostrich belt even when things were a bit tight, the survey said. High-end leather goods held steady even during the downturn. And now sales in that category are expected to increase by 16%, to over $60 billion dollars (43 billion euros). Not exactly pocket change.