Off White fall 2018

The growing crop of utilitarian-infused fashion lines should serve as a beacon of hope for accessories companies. According research conducted by The NPD Group, delivering stylish – and functional – accessories will be key for brands to navigate the shrinking market. According to the firm, consumers remain interested in updating their luggage (think Supreme’s baggage that swarmed social feeds lately) or bags that strike a balance between usefulness and luxury.

“The move from acquisition and consumption to experiences, travel and healthier living is challenging the fashion accessories industry to remain relevant among competing spending opportunities vying for consumer dollars,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry adviser for NPD. “Luxury items have managed to keep the industry alive, as consumers view these products as worthy of the investment, but fashion accessories manufacturers and retailers also need to look at how consumers live and address a broader spectrum of needs, desires and demographic life stages.”

Brands are racing against the constriction of the industry’s landscape that’s increasingly marred with picky, brand-agnostic consumers who are willing to search for the best deal or on-trend item. According to an NPD spokesman, the fashion accessories market continues to decline substantially – but there are glimmers of success, too.

“Over the past year, fashion accessories introduced between November 2016 and September 2017 drove the most incremental sales gains, but represented just over a third of annual 2017 sales. The consumer emphasis on function is apparent from the products that are exhibiting growth,” the spokesman said.

But that doesn’t mean that luxury accessories sales are dwindling. The spokesman explained that designer items were the only area that underwent growth in the fashion accessories industry. “Designer brands now account for 12 percent of industry dollar sales, following 10 percent growth in the past year,” he said.

“Everything should be a problem-solver in the mind of the consumer, and fashion accessories manufacturers are starting to embrace this,” added Beth Goldstein, NPD’s accessories and footwear industry analyst. “Even luxury designer brands are adding more function into their products, and this convergence has proven to be an equation for even greater success among today’s fashion accessories consumer.”

Appealing to a broader consumer base, bags that feature multistrap options are performing well, the firm discovered. “Multifunctional and multistrap options have grown to almost half of wristlet and nearly 40 percent of handbag dollar sales in the last year,” the spokesman said.

This shouldn’t be a surprise – luxury streetwear lines like Heron Preston and Virgil Abloh’s Off-White have struck a chord with younger fashion-hungry consumers that want to benefit, not be burdened, by their accessories. And traditional fashion houses are taking note, Abloh was recently tapped by Louis Vuitton to take the helm of its men’s division.

More from WWD:

Consumer-Generated Content Strengthens Omnichannel Experiences

Long Lines Cost Retailers $37.7 Billion in Last 12 Months

Streetwear Still Strong Among GenZ

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