By  on February 14, 2005

Although accessories designers are newly embracing a more toned-down aesthetic, the category is still sparkling. Vendors across the board are citing impressive sales figures for the year past and the year going forward.

Many agree that a change in consumer spending habits has led to the category’s success. More customers are willing to splurge on both luxury and one-of-a-kind looks.

In addition to vendors pulling out all the stops in their product assortments, they also are focusing on customer service, in hopes of meeting deliveries closer to season.

IN THE LAP OF LUXURY

According to some vendors, consumers may have more disposable income these days for fashion items and accessories, primarily because they save money elsewhere. This is translating into a new emphasis on luxury in the market.

“People are buying a lot at stores like Costco, so that frees up more income to trade up,” said Mitchell Handler, director of sales and marketing North America for Francesco Biasia, an Italian handbag line that Handler described as “for the consumer who wants to trade up to a higher-quality, fashionable, luxurious product.”

Handler said 2004 was “a record year,” with sales that were close to 30 percent over 2003, which also was a record year.

“2005 will be better,” he said. “There might be a slowdown somewhat in the rate of increase, but there will still be an increase.”

The collection wholesales for between $90 and $135, and is currently in about 600 doors across the country.

“We’re really focused on the bridge price,” he said.

The company also has focused on signature details to make the brand more attractive, including adding proprietary hardware for its newest collections, with all linings and rivets registered, licensed and trademarked.

“The idea was to create a Francesco Biasia consolidated image,” Handler said. “Other brands have some direct identification with their image, and we were looking for that. Our focus has been to create a personality for the name that can be found easily in the product.”

Initial response to the new styles, according to Handler, has been encouraging. The line recently was unveiled at New York market week, and, said Handler, “there wasn’t a customer who didn’t purchase. That was a resounding vote of confidence.”

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