Accessories makers are working harder to produce the novelty their market demands.
With an economy that is still in recovery mode; retail accounts that have either shut down, cut back on orders or are slower to pay; escalating production costs; knock-offs of their newest products, and a market that is saturated with every type of junior accessory, vendors said they have to try harder than ever to keep business buoyant.
Exhibitors in WWDMAGIC’s junior accessories category are aware of the challenges they face in 2005. But to counter all that, they know they need to come up with products that nobody else has and that all the retailers want.
“If you have merchandise that’s different, they will buy,” said Michael Datz, president of Waltham, Mass.-based Trendy LLC. “If not, they’ll pass you by.”
A producer of costume jewelry in the $1 to $3 wholesale range, Datz said that recent offerings of leather and dyed cotton items, and those embellished with stones and shells, have fared well so far among his accounts, which include specialty stores as well as majors. But he conceded that business has been soft compared with last year.
“People aren’t spending as much money. Gas is expensive, and while our business on the islands has been good, in the United States, it’s been a little soft.”
Datz said he manages to keep production costs low — most of his manufacturing is done in China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Greece — but he said the key was to come out with new products all the time.
“The juniors are the ones who spend money, and if you have something different, the business is always there. But retailers are paying slower, and they’re just not reordering as much as they did last summer,” he said.
Valia Glytsis, vice president of marketing for High IntenCity, a maker of jeweled charms based in Fair Lawn, N.J., agreed that a cornerstone of the category is novelty. Although the Hello Kitty and Disney charms continue to do well, the company is preparing to launch a line of “trend-focused jewelry.”“[For] anything that tweens are wearing, we want to be the source that they turn to,” Glytsis said of the line’s necklaces, bracelets and hair accessories. “We’re looking to become a lifestyle accessory brand for these girls.”
Glytsis said that both retailers and end-consumers want as much choice as possible, so new collections will offer a variety of color stories, metals, beads and stones.
“We want these girls to be able to come in with their allowance and find something,” she said.
For other vendors, increasing profitability by lowering production costs has become a new priority.
“So far, things have been OK this season — it hasn’t been great, but it’s not terrible either,” said Seana Pedelaborde, owner of A Mano LLC in Berkeley, Calif., which makes bags and jewelry. A number of her accounts have gone out of business, and that, combined with what she called “a market flooded with bags,” has made for some challenging months.
“But it’s a question of always doing something more original or better,” she said of her bags, which wholesale at $10.
“In the end, the difference between what you pay and what you can sell it for is the most important thing for survival,” she said. While her production is currently concentrated primarily in Mexico, she is considering exploring China as another option, where production costs might be lower.
LOTS OF LINES
Other companies are doing more radical things such as launching entire new categories. At Top Trendz, a maker of headbands and jewelry in Bayshore, N.Y., a new ready-to-wear line is being unveiled to complement the accessories — anything, said president Corey Glassberg, to give business a boost.
“We’re hoping the economy will take a turn for the better,” he said. “It’s been a slow summer, but business is starting to take off again.”
Like other vendors, he said it’s important to “be on top of what’s the next hot thing.” His latest offerings will include accessories made from brightly colored nylon that junior customers can braid to come up with different color combinations. Many items also are studded with rhinestones or accented with jeweled hearts, stars and flowers.“When you’re original and not copying what everyone else is doing, it helps the stores, which want items that don’t look like the same, old, regurgitated thing,” said Glassberg. “They want things that are packaged differently, and that are innovative and exciting.” His offerings range at wholesale from $24 to $120 a dozen.
“Everyone copies everyone in this business, but specialty stores have to be thinking outside the box, as well. They can’t just stick with one item, which is why we have to be constantly improving and keeping customers excited,” he said. “Because even if the economy is poor, if the product is right, they’ll buy it regardless.”
That said, old favorites continue to work well when given a tweak, as is the case with the Hello Kitty and Disney charms from High IntenCity. New York-based Winky & Dutch, a jewelry maker, said that its vintage-styled Hello Kitty and Elvis Presley accessories have been doing solid business.
“Our products are unique and well known, so people come and look for us,” said Trisha Cluck, executive salesperson for the line, which includes rings, barrettes, key chains and wristbands for less than $20 wholesale. The collection also extends to an older demographic with items such as ashtrays.
“We have themes ranging from children to sort of X-rated,” she said. “But the look is punk rock and vintage at the same time, which appeals to funky stores and boutiques. It’s a very specific market,” said Cluck.
LIGHT A CANDLE
But the comparatively flat market isn’t bad news for everyone. Hay House, a Carlsbad, Calif., publisher of self-help books and inspirational cards, has branched out into products such as scented candles and other gift items skewed to 18-year-olds and older, and is showing at MAGIC for the first time. Danny Levin, the company’s director of business development, said that, when the economy is suffering, people turn to companies like his.
“We deal with a lot of spas and specialty gift stores, and overall, things have been phenomenal,” he said. Hay House has used the recognition value of best-selling self-help authors and combined those with what he called “gift-able formats.”Soy candles scented with essential oils that wholesale for $7.50 are doing well at high-end spas and gift boutiques, and Levin said there are plans in the works to expand into clothing boutiques.
Over the past several years, he said, he’s seen consistent double-digit growth. And while last year that came down to “a high single-digit” increase, he conceded that was better than what a lot of other companies were facing.
“It’s been very good for us. Part of what happens when the economy gets bad is that people start to reevaluate what’s important to them in their life.”
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