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Just Their Bag

Denim and high street brands have discovered that their customers are more than willing to shell out for a must-have accessory.

The youth market is the latest golden territory for accessories. Youth-oriented brands, from activewear to denim specialists, are bulking up their offers and even sprouting accessories-only shops. A recent report by London tracking firm Mintel International that studied spending on accessories in 2005 says younger consumers are the most likely age group to buy accessories frequently. According to the report, almost a third of consumers ages 15 to 24 purchase accessories once a month. No wonder makers and merchants are lining up to meet the demand.

The PPR-owned Paris sportswear emporium Citadium last month unveiled a new ground-floor concept entirely dedicated to accessories. On top of traditional sports brands such as Nike and Puma, wide-ranging brands rub shoulders on the floor, from beach and surf names such as Quiksilver, Roxy and Havaianas to fashion and urban wear labels like Morgan, Energie, Paul Frank and Diesel.

There is a focus on bags and footwear, and the store’s eyewear selection incorporates luxury players Chloé, Gucci, Prada and Dior. “We completely repositioned our offer in response to robust demand for urban fashion coming from 15- to 25-year-olds,” says Luc Bierme, head buyer for the department. According to Bierme, youngsters gobble up entry-level and rare, highly sophisticated goods, whereas the midrange products don’t garner interest. “Ultimately, youngsters are after standout goods regardless of the price,” says Bierme. One corner situated at the store’s entrance, the “Black Rainbow,” has been set up to cater to that niche, housing limited edition lines and cutting-edge product imported from Japan and America. “It’s important to have goods that correspond with a young shopper’s universe, which means references to music, graphics and street life,” says Bierme.

Meanwhile, a number of denim and high street brands have hatched accessories boutiques. Mango, which opened its first accessories-only boutique, Mango Touch, in Madrid in 2005, is snaking its way into France. This year, the brand, which attributes 12 percent of its sales to accessories, already has opened two stores in Cannes and Toulouse and is eyeing Paris. Mango also unveiled its first take on a middle-range bag in March, priced at $200. The Californian denim brand Guess recently opened its first shoe store on the Rue François in Paris. More openings are slated in the near future, including in the U.S. over the next six months. Accessories sales for the brand last year totaled $90 million and are expected to rise to $130 million this year.

Another denim brand aggressively carving out its identity on the accessories market is Diesel, which opened its first and as yet only accessories store, Diesel Accessoires, in 2005. The store is located at the heart of Paris’ hip denim hub on Rue Etienne Marcel. “For us, the accessories market has enormous potential…and represents a high profit margin,” says a Diesel spokesman, explaining that the firm has been brushing up its savoir faire in an entirely other ball game.

Producing an authentic line that reflects the essence of Diesel’s core product is key. “We’ve been experimenting a lot with various leather treatments as it’s the uniqueness and quality of products that drives a sale, not the price,” he says. Its most expensive bag rings in at around $1,400, and he said young customers are not holding back on spending.