By and  on July 12, 2007

There are big doings in the accessories market. "This business has gone topsy-turvy in a great way," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst of The NPD Group. "It's become evident that today, apparel is actually the accessory item to an accessory purchase." NPD Group has ranked accessories categories by unit share of market for women during the first quarter. Earrings and handbags reigned supreme, but for different reasons, he said. Earrings relate to price point and quantity. Handbags? "The momentum for this category has picked up so much speed, because handbags have really become signature items for consumers," Cohen explained. "Retailers need to do better featuring accessories on their floors, and they need to treat them for what they are: a leading driver of traffic and purchases in each store."

EARRINGS

Unit share percentage of accessories market for women during the first quarter of 2007: 21

Of total accessories purchased for women during the first three months of this year, 21 percent were earrings. "Earrings are the ultimate impulse purchase for the accessories market," said Cohen of NPD Group. "This accessory is generally more affordable than other categories, so inevitably it is going to be one of the most often purchased." Quantity also plays a part in the popularity of this category. Consumers often wear different earrings every day, so they are constantly building up their collection. Sydney Price, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for jewelry and watches at Bergdorf Goodman, told WWD in June that the store's customer "wants to wear something that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. One-of-a-kind and limited edition pieces are key to the success of our business."

HANDBAGS

Percentage: 11

So maybe there's no one particular "It" bag, but handbags have never been selling better. Designer handbags from Chanel, Prada and Gucci have been sending sales skyward, and luxury is still the name of the game. Companies from Coach to Fendi have bags that are climbing to price points in the mid-thousands. And sometimes a designer name isn't enough. Taking it even further, bags from Nancy Gonzalez, Dior and Bottega Veneta are featuring exotic skins, such as alligator and anaconda. These bags have flown off the shelves, because of limited quantities — the harder to get, the more coveted the bag. Hermès, the brand that arguably defines what luxury means to this market, offers an alligator Birkin to the tune of $148,000.

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