Are accessories-only stores the next trend for designers? Since the luxury accessories category generally fared better than others in the past 12 months, some design houses are trying to figure out a way to jump on the booming bandwagon. Many are piling on the bags in their ad campaigns, others are increasing the space devoted to accessories in their stores and some are rolling out accessories-only store concepts.

Among them are Giorgio Armani, who in 2000 established an in-house accessories division with a focus on opening freestanding stores. Last October, the company opened an Emporio Armani accessories store in Madrid, its first solely dedicated to that division outside Milan. The opening of freestanding accessories shops is also high on Versace’s agenda. The first one, just under 700 square feet, opened in Munich last February.

Chanel, meanwhile, opened a 1,500-square-foot shoe and handbag boutique at 737 Madison Avenue in New York last June, which is adjacent to its fine jewelry shop. The Peter Marino-designed unit offers shoes, handbags, travel pieces and small leather goods — and similar stores opened at The Short Hills Mall in Short Hills, N.J., and The Mall at Millenia in Orlando.

"Our global shoe business has grown four times over in the past two years," said Barbara Cirkva, executive vice president of fashion at Chanel Inc., the U.S. arm of the Paris fashion house. "The time was right for the idea of pairing shoes and handbags into a unique retail concept."

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