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Image: Butlers
Chris Schotanus  /  BusinessWeek
Butlers stand on display at the luxury market at Amsterdam's Millionaire Fair.
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updated 12/21/2009 12:11:20 PM ET 2009-12-21T17:11:20

The world at large might be scouring the streets for bargain Christmas presents this year — or even ignoring mortgage payments. The rich, you will be pleased to know, are doing fine.

That's the message coming loud and clear from the defiant assembled masses of the luxury market at the Millionaire Fair in Amsterdam earlier this month.

The event started in 2002 after Dutch magazine Miljonair noticed a gap in the market for a decadent display of obscene wealth and spotted a chance for the rich to find ludicrously expensive ways to splash their cash under a single roof. The fair soon spread to Shanghai, Dubai, Moscow, and Istanbul as the epitome of excess became a global brand in itself.

Since then the world economy crashed harder than Lindsay Lohan. Even the fair has felt the effects and shrunk back to focus on its core audience in Holland, Germany, Russia, and Turkey.

But walk the red carpet into Amsterdam's RAI exhibition center, bedecked for a week with chandeliers, fountains, violinists, and more, and it's pretty clear that the luxury industry is fighting through the recession and finding ever-more imaginative ways to charge eye-watering sums for the best that money can buy.

"We do real business at this show and this year is no different," said Mercedes-Benz Holland spokesman Aldo van Troost. "If someone that had €100 million in the bank now has just €60 million, they can still afford to treat themselves."

An unconventional bargain
Despite the financial doom and gloom outside the gates, more than 50,000 have already walked the red carpet into the RAI exhibition centre to spend some serious money.

Not all of them are millionaires. The show targets those with disposable income to spend on the finer brands in life, from Wagamamas noodle bars, Sanyo, and Land Rover to yachtmaker Riva, champagne house Piper Heidseck, and jeweler Gassan.

The show has something for everyone. Be it a $20 million yacht, a $5,000 bottle of whisky, or even a $162 oyster plate, there is something for every cultured palate in the luxuriously appointed 2009 fair.

There was even a bargain, albeit an unconventional one: At the Laser Europe stand, those who lost hair to the crisis can find a 40 percent discount for hair-replacement therapy.

Apart from that comical offer, luxury vendors inside the hall have been delighted to leave bargain hunters outside while they compete for the attention and wallets of the wealthy few.

Copyright © 2012 Bloomberg L.P.All rights reserved.

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