NO Y2K PROBLEM SELLING MILLENNIUM ACCESSORIES
Byline: Wendy Hessen / With contributions from Teena Hammond, Los Angeles
NEW YORK — While there was a lot of hype about expected demand for all manner of accessories emblazoned with the likes of “Y2K,” or “2000,” retailers are having various levels of success with pieces created to commemorate the epochal event.
Some stores embraced an assortment of novelty items at highly accessible price points, while others shunned the merchandise with literal millennium references in favor of more sophisticated looks that just reflect a heightened level of holiday cheer. Those firms, banking on the current level of creativity in the accessories market, topped off their offerings with extravagantly styled or limited- edition pieces, particularly in evening classifications such as jewelry and scarves.
Diamond, clear crystal, celestial or spiritually inspired jewelry; wildly decorative wraps and stoles, and the odd tiara are among the items that have most often attracted consumers looking for the perfect item to mark the occasion.
At Saks Fifth Avenue, Gail Pisano, executive vice president of merchandising, said the glamourous crowd has gone after key items. “With the strongest weeks still to come, we’ve had over an 80 percent sell through with Judith Leiber’s millennium minaudiere which sells for $3,200,” Pisano said. “It shows a clock set just before midnight. We’ve also done very well with Gerard Yosca’s tiara which says 2000, for $175. By the end of the season, we expect 70 percent sell throughs on it.”
She noted that although there has been some softness in the scarf arena overall, two pieces have been very strong: Echo’s Times Square-patterned scarf and Ferragamo’s millennium designs.
Liz Bailey, divisional merchandise manager, and operating vice president for accessories at Bloomingdale’s, said: “We didn’t do too much millennium-specific merchandise, but concentrated on overstating the evening category, particularly in costume jewelry and scarves. The millennium is driving costume jewelry. Besides evening looks, we’re also selling lots of spiritual jewelry, like power-bead bracelets and some zodiac pins from Carolee just came in.
“We do have some specific millennium product. For example, the Waterford crystal-ball necklace, which is modeled after the Waterford ball that will drop in Times Square, has done well. By the end of the season, we will meet our projections. We’re just starting to see lots of that stuff kicking in now.”
Nordstrom covered the gamut of millennium accessories, according to a spokeswoman.
The high end includes a shoe and handbag set from Stuart Weitzman that retails for $1,200 to $1,300 per pair. Covered in crystals, they depict landmark locations in each of six major cities. Also popular is a $300 black handbag by Rodo with the handle formed out of the number 2000.
At the more moderate end, are an $18 bubble-blower necklace, which is a tiny vial of bubbles with the blower inside imprinted with the number 2000, and a $26 private label illusion necklace with 2000 written in iridescent stones.
Specialty stores frequently passed on the more blatant merchandise.
“We’ve sold a lot of pieces marked 2000 in our crystal and gift departments, but we went a different route in accessories,” said Terry Marcum, accessories buyer at Miss Jackson’s, Tulsa, Okla. “I brought in collections that are new to us, such as the jewelry lines Stephen Dweck, Ten Thousand Things and John Hardy’s semi-precious line. I think people will step out a bit more and we’ve definitely seen that in jewelry. It’s been explosive since August.”
Adding to the frenzy is the bracelet craze, Marcum. “We’re selling bracelets from $30 to $600, both for gifts and self-purchases.”
Melissa Geiser, jewelry and soft accessories buyer at Stanley Korshak in Dallas said: “The main thing we’ve been focusing on is anything with sparkle, but real sparkle, no costume. We’re selling lots of diamond-bead necklaces and single-diamond beads on platinum hoop earrings, as well as diamond-intensive pieces from Erica Courtney and Loree Rodkin. We’ve had several major sales, these pieces start at roughly $6,000 and reach $220,000.”
She said scarves were the other hot category.
“We’re selling lots of over-the-top wraps, mostly things that we bought in quantities of one or two, things like Cynthia Rose’s chinchilla-trimmed pieces and Georgina von Etzdorf’s pieces that retail for about $1,000,” she said, referring to von Etzdorf’s piece in black chiffon with neon green plastic hair-like plumes. “Our customers are going to major functions or several parties in different time zones, so I wanted to offer them really special things.”