NEW YORK — Whether it’s through lowering prices, introducing new products or filling niches, many accessories firms are sensing growth in the air and are pursuing the opportunities they feel the market has to offer.
In these days of conservative consumer spending, some companies are just heading straight for the heart of the issue and notching down prices. Millinery firm Hat Attack is one such example.
“We are actually picking up a lot of business because we have adjusted our prices to better suit the times,” said B.J. Gedney, president and designer of Hat Attack. For example, prices on the best-selling part of the firm’s line — its unstructured fabric hats — have been dropped from around $25 to around $15.
“It’s a challenge for us to set prices so low, particularly because we make everything in this country rather than overseas,” Gedney said. “But by the same token, our business with larger retailers, major department and specialty stores, has really taken off as a result.”
Another hat company, Whittall & Shon, has not lowered its prices, but has noticed increased activity in the less expensive, basic part of its line.
“We are seeing consumers that want either very basic, simple hats or else the most expensive, one-of-a-kind pieces,” said Richard Shon, who owns the company with his partner, Elliott Whittall. “We’ll be taking a conservative approach this year and sticking to this formula because we don’t foresee the economy changing all that much.”
Others are planning to whip up consumer interest with new products. At the Armitron division of watch company E. Gluck Corp., the Durasteel watch collection features a number of new items, including sleek and high tech looking watches with black or white dials.
“A lot of our newness is in this group, and we expect it to do very well for us,” said Jerry Dikowitz, vice president of marketing for the company. “They represent something new on the market, a category of sport watches that are good-looking enough to be used for more formal purposes as well.”
Backpack maker Kipling is planning to continue developing the two new lines it rolled out in the fourth quarter of last year: Kipling Sport and Kipling Safety. The Sport line consists of about a dozen sport-specific bags, including one for carrying tennis racquets and another for storing in-line skates, while the Safety group features bags outfitted with features like reflective strips that afford the user some measure of safety after dark.
“Both of these lines were launched on a limited basis last year, so now we’re looking to expand both into wider channels,” noted Henry Friedman, vice president of sales. “Our core line of Kipling Basics bags already has an established department and large specialty store business, so we hope to work the Safety and Sport lines in as well.”
Still others are seeking opportunity by playing the niche game, such as handbag designer Timmy Woods, who runs a handbag firm bearing her name.
“My bags are limited edition, collectible items, and yet are very affordable,” said Woods. The bags are made of wood and are handcarved and decorated. They retail for $200 or less.
“I’m a big believer in niche marketing, and these bags fill a definite niche,” she noted. “There are women who want to collect one-of-a-kind bags but maybe can’t afford some of the more expensive designer items.”
Woods said her business, which is two-and-a-half years old, grew almost 60 percent last year.
“I’m projecting a similar increase for this year,” she said.