Jimmy Choos at H&M: Recession’s Impact at High- and Low-End Stores

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In certain circles, this may qualify as sacrilege: Bargain merchant H&M will soon be selling Jimmy Choos—the chic designer women’s shoes that are regularly seen on red carpets and “Sex and the City,” and that normally retail for over $500. It’s unclear how much the shoes will cost at H&M, but it wouldn’t be shocking if they’re offered for one-tenth that price.

I love that, rather than report this as a simple trend, a Washington Post story blew the lid off of an industry that plays women for fools:

“Women’s shoes have been sold on a centuries-old mythology that makes the discovery that Jimmy Choo can produce a desirable pair of shoes for less than $50 as jarring as when Dorothy pulled back the curtain on the Wizard … No one pretends that a three-inch heel is ever going to be comfortable, but the conventional wisdom has been that an expensive pair of stilettos is going to be more comfortable than cheap ones because all that high-priced engineering is going to make the heel more stable, thus making walking without tipping over less of a challenge.

“Women have always known that to be an exaggeration. But it sounded good. It justified the cost to folks who didn’t understand the fantasy. The reality, though, is women buy designer shoes that they cannot walk more than 10 paces in because they believe that they will look exquisite for those 10 slow, painful steps.”

Will a trend like this kill $700 designer shoes? Hardly. Plenty of shoppers will pay a premium for something that’s exclusive—that the masses do not and cannot have—no matter if the item in question is really only worth $50.

In other shopping news, the Times reports that in light of the recession, Neiman Marcus and other high-end stores will be selling more mid-priced merchandise, while Walmart stores will have fewer goods to pick from.