Wealthier shoppers have become bargain hunters, and that's hurting retailers like Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Shoppers with lower incomes have been hunting bargains for years. They started gravitating toward discount retailers like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and dollar stores during the recession, and many never went back to shopping full-price.
That has had a crippling effect on full-price department stores like Macy's, JCPenney, and Sears, which have been closing hundreds of stores in the face of falling traffic and sales.
Now America's wealthiest shoppers are embracing that habit, signaling trouble ahead for the US luxury market.
Wealthy shoppers are comparing prices among retailers on everything they buy, and their brand loyalty has plummeted.
Sales of personal luxury goods, such as designer clothing and accessories, fell 1% last year, marking the first decline since 2009, according to Bain & Company data cited by The Wall Street Journal.
"There's no question that our core customer is visiting us a little less frequently," Karen Katz, Neiman Marcus' CEO, told analysts on an earnings call in December. "Customers, in general, are less loyal to any one retailer, and I think a lot of that is because of the price transparency of online. I think that's here to stay. I don't think that's going to change."
In the most recent quarter, same-stores sales fell 6.8% at Neiman Marcus and 0.9% at Nordstrom, including a 6.8% drop at its full-priced stores. Saks' same-store sales were flat.
Retailers like the high-end jeweler Tiffany & Co. and the preppy clothing brand Ralph Lauren have also been struggling, and both recently pushed out their CEOs, The Journal notes.
Price-comparison shopping is nothing new.
Companies like Amazon are making it easier than ever for people to compare prices online by offering tools like barcode scanners, which customers can access through their smartphones and use in stores to easily check prices on specific items.
Because that trend is reaching America's wealthiest customers and companies like Amazon and Walmart are breaking into the luxury fashion market, high-end retailers are struggling to set themselves apart.
Neiman Marcus is tackling the issue by offering more exclusive products and "making sure the vendors that we do business with have less of a distribution in the US," Katz said.
Meanwhile, Saks is trying to make its stores more "exciting," according to Jerry Storch, CEO of Hudson's Bay Company, Saks' parent.
"We are focused on continuing to delight our customers with exclusive product offerings and custom all-channel shopping experiences, and by creating exciting retail destinations to increase foot traffic in our stores," Storch said in January.