Image via Bundle

Denying it is impossible: Even with most of the economy at a standstill, luxury goods continue to boom and the products that make up the marketplace continue to reach higher and higher price points. All of the husbands and boyfriends (not to mention jealous officemates and frienemies) out there who nearly keel over at the price tags on handbags should take a look through the back pages of any major US fashion magazine – accessories are expensive, but clothes are out of this world.

Considering that, it’s no surprise that a recent survey by Bundle and Citi found that Oscar de la Renta’s Madison Avenue flagship is the most expensive store in the country. When cocktail dresses start at more than a thousand dollars and sometimes stretch up into the five figures, it’s not hard to see where the boutique’s $3217 average ticket comes from. Naturally, I have a few theories about these results.

When a survey like this comes out, it can almost always tell you more about the luxury business than meets the eyes, as long as you’re willing to dig a little bit. In this case, the second store on the list, Giorgio Armani’s Madison Avenue flagship, is just as important to my conclusions. What do they have in common? Ready-to-wear business that far outpace their accessories sales.

Think about it: When someone says “Chanel” to me, I think of a bag. The same thing happens with almost any major brand; the bags (and sometimes shoes) are the most recognizable pieces of the brand’s public image to consumers because they have a much wider potential customer base than a $5,000 cocktail dress.

Except when it comes to de la Renta and Armani, that’s not true. Most brands need the revenue from accessories (and cosmetics) to balance out the slim profits that are earned from selling nose-bleedingly expensive clothes to a small stable of customers, but some companies have such a strong name in ready-to-wear (for Armani, I would imagine that menswear – suits in particular – makes a big contribution as a well) that the comparatively modest accessories sales probably push their average sales prices upwards.

In most stores, the opposite is true. I’d be willing to bet that more people go into Prada with the intention of buying nylon handbags or moderately priced small leather goods than people who are shelling out for runway ready-to-wear, but the outrageously luxurious, meticulously detailed suits, cocktail dresses and ball gowns are the things that draw people into Oscar de la Renta. So the next time someone scoffs at you for buying a thousand dollar handbag or $700 pair of shoes, just tell him or her that you’re actually bringing down the average, thankyouverymuch.

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