Gold was raining from above for luxury brands in the good old days of 2007.
By Stephanie Clifford, November 24, 2008, New York Times

Last December, the designer Marc Jacobs held his annual holiday party for 800 guests, including revelers from Vogue, W, and Harper’s Bazaar, in the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center. With the theme of Arabian Nights, Mr. Jacobs had arranged for tableaux vivants, contortionists, five open bars, bare-chested women bedecked in gold necklaces, bare-chested men balancing candelabras on their heads and, at one point, a shower of gold glitter poured over the guests.

Mr. Jacobs has held the party for each of the last 18 years, but on Nov. 4, a short e-mail message was sent out by his business partner, Robert Duffy: “Due to the financial climate, I had to make the decision to cancel the 2008 holiday party.”

After getting through most of this year unscathed, luxury brands are suffering. Rich consumers who were relatively insulated from the economic downturn continued spending, but that has changed in the last few months. While luxury spending began to fall slightly from June, in October alone, it dropped 20.1 percent, according to MasterCard SpendingPulse, which estimates consumer spending in the retail and service sectors.

That drop-off means more bad news for magazines and newspapers in the United States that had grown increasingly dependent on luxury advertising.

Ad pages at the top luxury magazines fell 22 percent year over year for the December issues, according to Media Industry Newsletter. Vogue, for example, dropped from 284 pages last December, to 221 pages this December, while Food & Wine went from 160 pages to 126, according to the newsletter.

That has meant cutbacks at publishers. In October, Condé Nast announced it would reduce Men’s Vogue from 10 issues a year to two, reduce the number of issues of Condé Nast Portfolio and cut magazine budgets by 5 percent. Niche Media, which publishes Gotham and Hamptons, laid off some employees and closed a shelter magazine. American Express Publishing, which owns Departures, Travel & Leisure and Food & Wine, is laying off 4 percent of its staff.

“It’s definitely an environment that most have never seen,” said Ed Ventimiglia, the publisher of Departures. “Everyone is very concerned and somewhat confused as to what they should do.”

High-end advertising was one of the few strong advertising categories earlier in the year. Luxury ad spending in categories measured by Nielsen Monitor-Plus actually rose 6.7 percent through August of this year over last year, even as almost all other areas slashed their spending.

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