Savile Row traditionally weathered economic downturns with equanimity. The rich always had money for good clothes. But in the 1980s London's elite tailoring district was discovered by a new breed - City lads freshly wealthy from outrageous bonuses paid by banks and brokerages.
When the recession hit, this new market disappeared. So too did traditional customers, though for a different reason. "Lloyd's took a very, very big bite out of our business," said Graham Lawless, general manager of Dege Savile Row, referring to the near collapse of London's insurance market. "It's the first recession we've had that's hit right at that top level."
Now the customers are young professionals and self-made men. They tend to buy one suit at a time, rather than four or five. Their caution is understandable. While a Savile Row suit will last years, the cost, including shirts and ties, is well over pounds 2,000.
There are other signs of greater confidence, at least among the rich. Customers are reported to be flocking to buy the little extras they have put off for the last five years, from cosmetic surgery to crates of bubbly.
Colonic irrigation, a fancy name for a fancy enema, is enjoying growing popularity. The Hale Clinic in Park Crescent - rumoured to be favoured by the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of York - has seen a "serious" increase in demand over the past year. Customers must have pounds 60 and time to spare to "detoxify" their intestinal tract.
Up-market hotels may not be the best gauge of the British feel-good factor as many guests are from abroad. Yet the Savoy attributes its sales boomlet, up about 8 per cent in the past year, to the economy. "People have more money in their pockets and are willing to spend it on luxuries," said a spokeswoman. A suite overlooking the Thames, withoutmeals, costs pounds 975 a night.
Pet therapy is a more ambiguous indicator. Pete Burns, who "counsels" dogs with behavioural problems from his north London home, says his pounds 100, half-day consultations are in greater demand. But the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors denies business is linked to economic cycles. If Rover needs a session on the couch, Rover gets it.
Rolls-Royce, a more traditional barometer of upper-class confidence, is also doing well. Jack Barclay, the Barclay Square dealer that sells one in five of the Rollers in Britain, says the boom started almost two years ago.
As with all car sales, the profits are in the extras. A Silver Dawn costs pounds 118,500. Add to that tinted windows, pounds 650; a fridge in the boot (for picnics), pounds 1,600; a fax, pounds 2,500; and a TV with the latest CDI laser disc player for pounds 7,603.
Caviar is a reliable pointer. At the top end, sales of Beluga, with its larger, softer eggs, at up to pounds 101 per 50g remain steady no matter what the economy is doing. But Marshal Brar, food and beverage manager at the Caviar House Boutique on Piccadilly says more people are buying the less expensive Sevruga (from pounds 36) or moving up to the mid-market Oscietre.Reuse content