By  on April 18, 2007

Accessories was once considered an ancillary category to denim or contemporary brands, but now handbags, footwear and eyewear have become core competencies for many firms. No one understands this quite like Paul Marciano.

The company, which has seven accessories licenses, not including swimwear with RAJ Manufacturing, has a booming business in the category, which comprises $800 million in wholesale sales.

Accessories include handbags under license with Signal, footwear with Marc Fisher, belts with Maxx Leather, men's jewelry and small leather goods with Swank, women's jewelry with K&M Accessories, eyewear with Viva and watches with Callanen International.

"We built the Guess brand first and then created the world of Guess with all our licenses," said Marciano.

And the Guess universe is constantly expanding. The company has plans to increase the number of its accessories-only stores; the first opened in Los Angeles in September 2004 and there are now 110. Marciano said he planned to increase that number to 300 in the next few years. There are now accessories-only stores in such diverse locales as Cambridge, Mass., Florence and Sydney.

"Accessory stores continue to open aggressively around the world," he said.

The company also has two Guess Footwear stores, in Paris and in Orlando, Fla., in conjunction with footwear licensee Marc Fisher, the former president of product development and sourcing for Nine West Group. Last year, Marciano said the chain could grow to 200 doors worldwide. The firm will roll out 15 to 20 such stores in the next 12 months.

Overall, the licensees concurred that the keys to their combined success are communication and long-standing relationships.

Signal, a 25-year-old father-son firm in Los Angeles, has produced Guess handbags for the past 15 years. Handbags account for 60 percent of the distribution in the accessories stores.

"We feel that now we offer incredible trend-right designs that have become our own brand...and we offer these incredible designs at a price point," said Jason Rimokh, Signal's executive vice president, who added that he speaks with Marciano regularly. Guess handbags retail from $75 to $140 and, like other Guess products, are sold in Macy's and other major department stores.

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