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.”
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.”
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.
This story first appeared in the July 12, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“Consumers will purchase a necklace because it shows off an individual’s personality — wearing this one accessory is a way for consumers to differentiate themselves, to express their sense of style,” Cohen said, noting that costume jewelry is very much in style. WWD reported on Monday that Miriam Haskell (the 81-year-old brand that helped put costume jewelry on the map) is “relaunching its costume collection and challenging stereotypes with high-fashion, red-carpet-worthy pieces, including gold-plated leaf necklaces.” The collection retails from $150 to $1,500. And Bulgari, which opened its redesigned Manhattan flagship in March, offers limited edition coin jewelry, including necklaces, with Roman coins from the fifth century B.C.
Bracelets are having their day. Though a bracelet is typically a spring or summer item meant to be worn on bare wrists, nowadays designers such as Roxanne Assoulin for Lee Angel and Alber Elbaz for Lanvin have been touting stacked bangles, worn on top of sweaters and even jackets. WWD reported earlier this week, “Alexis Bittar’s eponymous brand offers Lucite bangles and gold vermeil rings that range in price from $75 to $1,000.” On the fine jewelry end, Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier have been featuring estate bracelets in their collections.
Gina Genz, owner of Etc. East in Vinings, Ga., told WWD in May, “Everyone is buying rings for themselves — for the right hand and for the middle finger. If they love it, they buy it.” And it’s not just about diamonds anymore: Specific trends within the category including stackable rings, cocktail rings and large, unusual geometric shapes are performing well. “The key is, there is something out there for everyone, and consumers are very excited about that,” said Deborah Rudinsky, divisional merchandise manager, accessories, at The Doneger Group, a New York marketing and trend-analysis company. “In the past, unless rings were ‘real,’ they might not have thought about them.”
Understandably, this category makes the top 10 because of the timing of purchases. Gloves and mittens were a solid bet during the winter months in early 2007. For fall, cashmere, leather and lambskin gloves will abound. During the fall collections in Milan, Barbara Atkin, fashion director, Holt Renfrew, Canada, noted, “The sleeper item of the season is the glove.” Lines such as Blumarine opted for a more dramatic, dressy effect with opera-length gloves. Julie Gilhart, senior vice president and fashion director, Barneys New York told WWD, “We will be buying thousands of tights, long gloves and belts.” And for back-to-schoolers: Grunge-inspired fingerless gloves are all the rage.
Deluxe sunglasses with diamonds, gold and other precious gemstones have been making statements from popular brands, such as Cartier, Chrome Hearts and Loree Rodkin. “Loree Rodkin offers diamond-encrusted crosses, peace signs and hearts on custom eyewear,” WWD noted in April. Cartier’s jewelry-inspired Panthère eyewear collection has a price range of $500 to $130,000 (the latter for a custom gem-drenched pair). But name brands continue to rule — and even though logos may be less prominent on eyewear now, it’s still imperative to consumers that their shades have a familiar — designer — name. Designers have become so interested in the eyewear business, that they are launching eyewear to complement their secondary brands: A|X Armani, Marc by Marc Jacobs and O by Oscar are all featuring eyewear.
“Wallets are possibly the most affordable small leather good,” Cohen said. “They are an easy, affordable way to gain status.” Consumers also utilize this accessory on a daily basis. “So when you find a signature style or brand you like, you will remain loyal to it and spend the money on that item.” In June, retail analyst Dana Telsey of Telsey Advisory Group told WWD: “By reeling in teens with entry-level items such as wallets and wristlets, luxury brands have an opportunity to ‘grow up’ with their customers.” Well-known luggage companies, such as Tumi and Samsonite, are including wallets in their collections, as well.
It’s all about the waist. Ready-to-wear firms, such as Fendi and Marc Jacobs, have been completing their looks with a belt. Consumers have taken to the tent dress phenomenon over the past few seasons, and they’ve been feminizing and cinching them with belts. Meanwhile, firms such as Streets Ahead and Karen Zambos — both in Los Angeles, have been promoting belt wardrobes, saying consumers need everything from a corset belt to a jeans belt, and they even need a belt to finish off a black-tie dress. Zambos’ “Elegantly Waisted” belt collection features double-wide belts, wrap belts, cummerbund patent leather belts and skinny belts with three and four buckles.
WWD reported in February that hats have long been a hard sell in the U.S., but Ed Burstell, Bergdorf Goodman’s senior vice president and general merchandise manager of beauty, jewelry and accessories, said, “I think that after several seasons, we are due for a hat revival.” Indeed. Hats for the winter months hit runways at New York Fashion Week back in February, as lines such as Michael Kors and Rodarte showed off their cold-weather versions on the runways. Even DKNY and Ralph Lauren featured berets, while Alice Temperley and Phillip Lim went more formal, with top hats and fedoras.