By  on March 21, 1994

NEW YORK -- Hair accessories are still a profitable area for many stores, but maintaining a constant array of new merchandise and analyzing sales in this inventory-heavy, impulse-driven category can be tough.

Price, too, remains a high priority among retailers, who are generally sticking to either higher-priced, designer level goods or more volume-driven trend lines rather than offering a mix.

Rob Goldfarb, merchandise manager for fashion accessories at Henri Bendel, said hair accessories is a high-maintenance business, where tracking exactly what sells is crucial to success.

"We identify every piece of merchandise by vendor, fabrication or theme and classification, so we can monitor what is selling best," Goldfarb said, "Then we place weekly orders to keep the fastest-turning merchandise in stock."

Bendel's merchandising formula makes it easy for customers to pick and choose by showcasing hair accessories according to a theme -- such as silver, or a category -- like headbands, rather than by designer or brand.

Another challenge, according to Goldfarb, is finding new merchandise reflecting secondary trends that can be introduced in slow periods, such as in cold, hat-wearing weather. He said that he often looks to the jewelry market to provide inspiration for themes that can be re-interpreted into "hair jewelry."

For fall 1994, Goldfarb thinks the velvet, jet and jewelry looks of the Edwardian period will be key, as will the continuation of silver.

At Saks Fifth Avenue, Denise Scogna, soft accessories buyer, said that getting merchandise out of cases and on top of counters is one of two major concerns.

"Since hair accessories are often impulse purchases, we're trying to put as much as possible within our customer's reach," Scogna said. "Wherever we've added top-of-counter fixtures, our sales have increased."

Keeping sales associates motivated to sell generally lower-priced hair accessories is another hurdle, according to Scogna. She noted that several vendors, including David and Kirk's Folly, have held how-to demonstrations for customers and associates combining several pieces at a time, so associates can aim for multiple sales.

As far as classifications are concerned, Scogna cited headbands and pony holders as leaders for fall.

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