NEW YORK — Although one wouldn’t know it from the deluge of media coverage, the red-hot Louis Vuitton Takashi Murakami handbag isn’t the only accessories item flying off retail shelves this spring.
Bright colored handbags, designer brand sunglasses, oversized earrings and print scarves are some of the other accessories standing out for stores this season. While spring selling started slowly, especially on the Northeast, the action has picked up in recent weeks, according to store executives.
"With the horrific weather and the war, spring definitely got off to a late start," said Ed Jankowski, chief operating officer at Solstice, the 29-unit sunglass chain. "In the last three weeks, however, we have seen some good sell-throughs. It started later than I would have liked, but I am optimistic it will be a good season overall."
Because of the late start, many merchants said they are slightly below or even with last year, although most said they have been selling accessories generally at full price, with few promotions.
Bergdorf Goodman’s accessories business is running ahead of last year, said Robert Burke, vice president and senior fashion director.
"We have had a very healthy spring business and it’s been consistent from the start," Burke said. "The very strong trend has been color and what’s selling are unique items. Anything basic is struggling. Brown and black are not performing the way they have been."
Among the store’s top-selling items in handbags this season are colored styles from Marc Jacobs, as well as feminine looks, such as a flower bag from Yves Saint Laurent. Embroidered and decorative bags from Oscar de la Renta, Valentino and Natori also have performed well.
"We are seeing a huge desire for one-of-a-kind items," Burke added.
Henri Bendel also has had a robust accessories season, said Scott Tepper, an accessories buyer.
"Hair accessories and sunglasses have been strong, while straw items haven’t been selling yet," he said. "However, on May 11 we are going to open a beach shop on the gazebo with lots of straw accessories and other items from a wide variety of designers."Pucci print scarves have been particularly strong sellers, he noted. Bendel’s has been expanding its space devoted to accessories and is putting more items on the first floor, which has traditionally been devoted almost exclusively to beauty. Sunglasses and watches have been categories getting more space.
"We have been trying to bring in more diversity in sunglasses by carrying newer brands," he said, citing Bottega Veneta and Diane Von Furstenberg, both of which have just entered eyewear.
At specialty retailer Jeffrey, some hot sellers have included Gucci shoes, as well as handbags from Bottega Veneta and Yves Saint Laurent.
"I am finding that people are ready to shop," said owner Jeffrey Kalinsky. "I would be lying if I said business was great, but thank God it’s not dismal."
Don Carney, vice president at Manhattan accessories store Patch NYC,was among those who said novelty items are driving their accessories businesses. For example, at Patch, a clutch bag in the shape of a wiener dog has been a surprise hit, he said. Other standouts at Patch include chandelier earrings, oversized tote bags, and hats, especially styles with vintage prints.
At Solstice, designer eyewear brands are seeing strong sell-throughs, particularly Gucci and Burberry, Jankowski said.
"The return of plastics has really helped drive sales," said Jankowski, who said the company’s average price point is now about $125.
Meanwhile, H&M has seen continued strong sales of ethnic and beaded looks, as well as military-inspired handbags and crochet bags, according to a company spokeswoman.
"Jewelry has also been fantastic," she said. "Especially anything with wood accents."
In California, the five-unit Ice Accessories chain has had strong sales in handbags from Isabella Fiore and jewelry from Anthony Nak, said owner Dianne Chanin.
"Scarves are looking good and big earrings are fantastic," Chanin said. "After the Oscars, everyone wanted a pair."
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