If You Had A Rich Man’s Closet Space, You’d Spend Lots On Clothes Yourself

New research confirms that the rich are indeed different from you and me: They own more shoes. And that’s just one detail from a survey by Time of the sartorial microeconomics of America’s affluent consumers. While rebutting the notion that well-heeled people are cheapskates, the poll (among adults with household income of at least $150,000) finds they aren’t splurging willy-nilly on clothing, accessories and such.

For starters, 56 percent said they mainly shop only when they need a specific item. Then again, their sense of what they need may strike you as rather expansive. How much did respondents (median income: $206,300) spend on apparel in 2005? A frugal 12 percent shelled out less than $250, including 2 percent who spent nothing at all. Twenty-five percent fell into the $251-750 range, with another 14 percent spending from $751 to $1,000; 26 percent spent $1,001-2,500, and 13 percent $2,501-5,000. Just 9 percent spent more than $5,000. The average was $2,032. The respondents also spent an average of $768 on accessories, $1,352 on jewelry (including watches) and $671 on beauty/grooming products.

One intriguing section of the survey asked respondents to say what’s the most they’ve ever spent on an item in several categories. For clothing, women’s priciest purchases averaged out to $690, vs. $780 for the men. Men also outpaced women in the average amount of their highest-ticket purchase of jewelry and watches ($1,251 vs. $1,117) and shoes ($257 vs. $200). When it comes to shoes, though, women compensate for this comparative frugality by the sheer number they buy. The survey’s female respondents own an average of 27 pairs of shoes, vs. 12 pairs for the men. Nineteen percent of the women said they own more than 50 pairs of shoes.

Department stores are still the places where affluents shop the most for clothing/accessories, with 39 percent citing them as their chief retail channel. The Internet is getting into the act as well, though, with 12 percent citing it as their primary venue for this shopping. Seventy-eight percent said they’ve bought such items online during the past 12 months; 45 percent have bought shoes that way. Fifteen percent reported having made the majority of their clothing/accessories purchases online during that period.

Consumers with slim financial resources often have second thoughts when they’ve splurged on something luxurious. The affluent, by contrast, are free of regret. Among those who’d bought a luxury item during the previous 12 months, 97 percent said they were happy with it. A mere 3 percent said they regretted the purchase.