Why Oscar de la Renta Is America's Most Expensive Store


Of the 25 stores that made consumer finance website Bundle's "most expensive stores" list, Oscar de la Renta was the only one to break the $3,000 mark: That's $3,217 on average that customers spend at his Madison Avenue location in New York City.

The top 25 list reads like the credits of a Vogue editorial: big names, big numbers, big cities. Bundle, a data-analysis startup, took price data from millions of credit card transactions provided by Citibank over the course of one year to generate average receipt numbers for each store.

While Oscar De La Renta is not out of place on the list, it does seem a little strange that the brand would trump the likes of Chanel, Chloe, Lanvin and Prada. Giorgio Armani, down the street, comes in second at $2,821.

Gallery: The 25 Most Expensive Shops in the US

Most expesive shops photos
Most expesive shops photos

One reason for its list-topping status does stand out: De la Renta sells dresses. While many of the brand's original competitors such as Gucci or Louis Vuitton have been absorbed into luxury conglomerates, and now focus more on the high-margin sales of shoes and bags, Oscar de la Renta has stayed private and family-run, and held true to its pricey roots. (CEO Alex Bolen is de la Renta's son-in-law). Today, Oscar de la Renta is known for the same sort of timeless, womanly gowns that it made for the socialites of the 1960s.

And as Oscar de la Renta fans like Oprah and Sarah Jessica Parker know too well, looking timeless is a pricey habit. As Ron Kurtz, president of the American Affluence Research Center put it, "Unlike even Armani, [Oscar de la Renta] doesn't carry a diverse range of merchandise to serve different segments of the market. Everything starts at a very high price point."

Madison Avenue -- home to three of the top four locations on the list -- is also an international tourist destination, where people come to buy brands that may not be available in their home countries. "Some of these stores have a very limited distribution and become more appealing," Kurtz says.

Kurtz also notes that Bundle's study takes into account only part of the luxury market, since until recently, Citibank dealt only with Mastercard and Visa -- not American Express cards or private store accounts. So while the numbers give an idea of how people are spending, they aren't representative of the entire market.

The only top-four boutique not on Madison Avenue is Boston's Loro Piana, a family-owned Italian brand known for its fine cashmere that came in at No. 3 at $2.818. It would seem that top spenders are also willing to pay for established glamor and exceptionally well-made products, even when they aren't flashy or avant-garde.