What the rich give for holiday gifts

Dina Gerdeman

Surely you’ve seen that TV commercial - the one where the guy brings his wife outside on a perfect snowy Christmas morning and surprises her with a shiny new Lexus adorned with a big red bow?

Does it make you wonder: Could this possibly ever really happen?

Indeed, it does. At least 25 people have bought Lexus cars to give away as Christmas gifts from Herb Chambers Lexus in Sharon, Mass., said sales manager Tom Majeski. The luxury cars run anywhere from $36,000 to $115,000. And they come delivered with the big red bows you’ve seen on TV.

‘‘December is our biggest month of the year,’’ said Majeski, who rendered his former wife speechless a few Christmases ago by having a black Lexus delivered to the house for her. ‘‘It’s generally a husband buying one for his wife. Most of the time, the wife really doesn’t know it’s coming. You never call the customer at home; you always call the office because you want to make sure it’s a surprise.’’

While many people are belt-tightening and bargain shopping during these uncertain economic times, some fortunate folks apparently have no qualms about dropping tens of thousands on a single Christmas gift.

Americans are expected to spend a staggering $474.5 billion this year on Christmas shopping, according to the National Retail Federation. The organization said the typical shopper plans to spend an average of $923.36 this year, up 3.7 percent over last year.

But that’s peanuts for some folks, who are opening their wallets much wider.

Jim Trippon, author of books about the money habits of self-made millionaires, said the top 10 most expensive Christmas gifts for 2007 include: the Bugatti Veyron sports car for $1.7 million; a pair of 15-carat diamond earrings by Neil Lane for $750,000; a Vertu 7.2-carat pink and white diamond phone for $73,000 and --a dogsled expedition in the North Pole for $37,500.

‘‘I think going to space costs more, but not much else,’’ quipped Annie Aggens, director of Polar Expeditions, which takes about 20 to 25 people a year to the North Pole via champagne flights and dog expeditions in April. ‘‘We get a lot of interest in the trips around the holidays. People want to go up there and bring a Santa suit to put on and take their holiday pictures.’’

Bob Hana, vice president of worldwide sales and marketing for Runco, said people are ordering the company’s new 103-inch plasma televisions for a whopping $100,000 this holiday season.

‘‘They are anxious to make sure it will be delivered before Christmas,’’ he said. ‘‘People want things that are high quality in performance. They know they’re getting something that’s very good. And some people simply want it because they can have it, and they know not a lot of other people can.’’

Jewelry is a popular high-end gift, with engagement rings and diamond stud earrings selling well, said Charlie Fierimonte, owner of the South Shore Diamond Exchange in Pembroke. Fierimonte sold a pair of 4½ -carat earrings for $30,000 recently. While sales of expensive pieces are strong this year, the more moderately priced jewelry is not doing as well - an indication that the less-than-wealthy are keeping spending in check, he said.

‘‘A lot of people don’t have the extra thousand or two to spend on a piece of jewelry right now,’’ Fierimonte said, ‘‘but the people who have money are not hesitating to buy. We’re seeing less numbers of people, but the people who are coming in are spending a lot of money.’’

Dina Gerdeman may be reached at dgerdeman@ledger.com.

Patriot Ledger