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Rich have money to burn once again

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Wealthy Americans seem to have decided that it’s OK to splurge again — a hopeful sign for an economy mired by slow growth, stubbornly high unemployment and depressed home prices.

Luxury and high-end marketers have picked up on what they hope is a growing trend, offering products that bank on a looming spending spree. Germany’s PG-Bikes is rolling out the $80,000 Black Trail, a battery-powered bicycle. Swiss watchmaker Richard Mille is selling $525,000 timepieces. Steinway has launched a John Lennon-themed grand piano — at $90,000 and up. After selling out a $245,000 model, automaker Porsche is planning the 918 Spyder, a hybrid car that could sell for more than $630,000.

To many still worried about the economy, spending for luxury goods and ultra-toys with eye-popping price tags is silly. Even so, the trickle of high-end products aimed at deep-pocketed clientele is a potential leading indicator of a broader wave of pervasive conspicuous consumption among middle- and upper-income shoppers, analysts say.

“If the wealthy are buying, there’s a huge downstream effect: It goes all the way down to the $50,000 (annual income) household,” says Jim Taylor, a marketing specialist.

Gannett News Service

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