Could the recession really be ending?

All the talking heads and financial writers are talking about Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s recent pronouncement, during the Q&A session after a speech, that the recession is “very likely over.”

Really? Let’s see Seth Myers and Amy Poehler tackle that one on their next SNL Weekend Update Thursday edition.

But then I noticed something. It’s a small thing, but worth mentioning.

Tiffany & Company is once again advertising really expensive bling.

At our house, aging Baby Boomers that we are, we still read the paper in its paper version. We subscribe to the New York Times and the Dallas Morning News seven days a week, and before my husband snatches the front section of The Times I always take a gander at the upper right hand corner of page 3, where Tiffany has had an ad for more than 20 years. (The Speak Up blog wrote about this ad placement in 2006 at http://tinyurl.com/clzo6g.)

It’s a plain black and white photo of a product, with a simple description and the price. Like Tiffany, always elegant and classy. As the economy tanked I noticed they were advertising more of their moderately-priced, less flashy items. And while noting at Tiffany is “cheap” I’m sure it was surprising to some that you can buy a beautiful silver bracelet for $125.

Over the years, the Tiffany ads would alternate between something priced for real people and red carpet-worthy bling of which we mere mortals can only dream. Of course, the Vince Lombardi trophy is showcased on Super Bowl Sunday, and Tiffany also makes the NASCAR trophy, but a year’s worth of ads pretty much has something for everyone.

But as the economy headed south, so did the prices on the items in the ads. Not the prices themselves, but an emphasis on items many people probably didn’t know you could find there. There was a long run of ads for silver charms, tiny heart pendants, and their line of keys in a wide range of prices, interspersed with wedding jewelry in the moderate range. Meanwhile, on the upper part of Page 2 Chanel kept showing off shoes and purses in prices equal to a small used car.

Chanel didn’t get it, Tiffany did.

People crunched by hard times spend what money they have on lasting things. For a birthday or milestone occasion, $100 spent at Tiffany will arguably be a better investment than the same $100 at a garden-variety mall jeweler. A lot of bang for the buck, and when times get better, those customers may return. When it comes in that little blue box tied with a white ribbon, it’s priceless. (I actually re-tied the ribbon around the box my wedding ring came in. Still have it, it’s that special.)

Lately, the pricier items are creeping back into the ad mix. The diamond-crusted watch for $32,000. The red carpet-worthy bracelet of diamonds, platinum and onyx with a six-figure price tag. And today’s $72,000 brooch of Morganite, platinum and diamonds.

I know this isn’t a reliable economic barometer, but I couldn’t help but notice. Bling is back, at least in the ads, and maybe that means the economy is crawling back, albeit slowly.

We won’t know for quite a while if this recession is really “over.” But if anybody sees Ben Bernanke browsing for treats at Tiffany’s, please be sure and Tweet about it.

One thought on “Could the recession really be ending?

  1. moyse October 5, 2009 / 9:41 pm

    signs of the times…Halloween outlet replaces Horchow Finale in University Park; all major chain fast food employees have blackberry's; if retailers don't have “save 75%” in their windows few people will come in; fine jewelers at NorthPark pay sign holders to tell everyone “going out of business sale” come and get it; someone has money to spend and the hint is: stops traffic, ties up traffic, wreaks havoc on your drive time, and the answer is CONSTRUCTION everywhere

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