BRANDED JUNIOR FIRMS ARE INTO ACCESSORIES MORE THAN EVER, AND CHALLENGING LICENSEES AND STORES.
Byline: Marc Karimzadeh
With teens losing sleep in anticipation of the October launch of Teen Vogue, junior firms are excited as well — about increasing their focus on branded accessories for holiday.
The excitement is coursing all through the business, affecting licensees and retailers as they deal with the junior market’s quicker pace, and with increasingly crucial questions of where best to merchandise junior accessories.
The action has been intensifying for the last two years, and the number of junior firms developing branded accessories continues to rise. Junior firms, including Steve Madden, XOXO, Rampage and Dollhouse, have recently jumped into accessories primarily through licensing deals.
For the licensees, entering the junior category isn’t just about adding a new dimension to an accessories line. Most firms say that the pace and turnover for junior accessories trends is faster than the overall accessories market, and the new pace is likely to affect regular production and distribution schedules.
Overall, there is a sense that, once the dust settles, branded junior accessories will be a thriving and entirely separate entity with different requirements for retailers stocking the collections. And as the industry continues to grow, retailers will have to more conclusively answer the question of where to house the new lines.
Department stores so far seem to favor putting the lines within the main floor accessories area. Some junior industry executives, however, believe junior accessories should be placed on the juniors floor, alongside apparel. Their reasoning is that many junior shoppers tend to skip the main floor aisles and head straight up to the designated sections for junior apparel.
For those making it to the main floor, the junior bag trends for the coming season include sequined and embroidered wool and fake multicolored python. There are variations on designer fashion shapes, and the bowling bag should offer a new area of excitement for teen shoppers.
In jewelry, gold is going to be the major look with main categories being goldplated necklaces and bracelets. Belts are also taking on jewelry influences with gold and silver metal variations.
One firm not to miss a beat when it comes to assessing each category of its growing accessories business is Steve Madden. Best known for footwear, the firm has made a major push into accessories.
Corinne Moroney, Madden’s director of licensing, sees branded junior accessories, in particular handbags, as an extension of women’s fashion at pocket- money price points.
“A Steve Madden handbag is an aspirational piece,” said Moroney. “Branded junior accessories are more about being in tune with what is happening in women’s fashion accessories than the traditional junior market.”
For teens, must-have looks are often determined by hot accessories labels like Gucci, Prada and Fendi, she noted.
“In the junior market, there is a strong trend to go for status,” said Moroney. “Teenagers look at what movie and music stars sport, and if Gwyneth [Paltrow] or Cameron [Diaz] wear a specific bag, they go for that look. Another strong trend in the holiday season will be fake python, as well as the bowling bag. Belts have been slow for some time. But there are developments with the new belly chain belts. We see a lot of opportunity there.”
The Madden jewelry line will also cater to a younger crowd.
“It’s a very teen look, with many pieces at great prices,” said Deedee McGuire, national sales director at C.O. International, which carries the Steve Madden jewelry license as well as Stevies jewelry, the younger line targeting the eight-to-14 age bracket.
“Young customers are much quicker to pick up on color,” said McGuire. “For the holiday season, the main colors are red, purple, blues and gold. Stevies is offering goldplated, silverplated and oxidized finishes to keep retail price points below $15.
“The market is more item- than look-driven. Girls are no longer buying matching rings, necklaces and earrings. They go for the one hot item,” McGuire added.
Currently, Steve Madden’s accessories are available in department stores on the main floor, alongside women’s accessories. However, Moroney predicts that department stores will take a more proactive approach to merchandising junior accessories in the near future.
“Young retail chains like Urban Outfitters and Anthropology understand the junior market and know how to sell accessories to a younger customer. Bigger department stores are finally beginning to follow their lead.”
Other fashion firms are also pushing branded junior accessories for the holiday season. XOXO works with licenses to offer handbags and jewelry. Last May, the firm introduced belts to its categories.
“Our main markets are the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Middle East. They have received the new category well,” said Joel Pinsky, ceo at Omega Fashions, the licensee for XOXO belts.
“XOXO belts are young and contemporary, an alternative to Donna and Calvin, whose look is so homogenized,” Pinsky said. He noted that one important trend influence is MTV, and that the junior market wants to wear items seen on music industry favorites immediately.
Retail presentation and point of display is a key issue for the XOXO licensees. Pinsky noted that juniors are not likely to look for belts on vast display stands in the belt department.
“I would love to see junior accessories marketed in ready-to-wear,” Pinsky said. “About 20 years ago, Lord & Taylor had a junior accessories department. That was a very effective way to get the product across to its market.”
Della Olsher, licensing director at Rampage, said that retailing, marketing and price points are key factors in the branded junior market now.
“Things are happening in the junior market,” Olsher said. “Many department stores are reconfiguring their floors and adding junior or young contemporary destinations right now. With junior accessories, the way in which a store buys and presents accessories will determine whether the junior customer will like it. If a store prefers more whimsical pieces, juniors will find the stock more attractive.”
Rampage has a handbag and eyewear collection and is launching watches this August. According to Olsher, handbags are a particularly strong junior category. For the holiday season, Rampage’s key items include sequined and embroidered wool bags.
Although having the right fashions is critical, Olsher said that when it comes to attracting teens, the true point of sale is price. “With the junior market, the success of an accessory has a lot to do with the lower price points,” Olsher said. “Our junior handbags retail up to $50, which makes them suitable.”
For Rampage, the main advertising category is print, Olsher added, and the firm will be featured in Teen Vogue.
Guess junior accessories are also manufactured through licenses. One of the main junior categories at Guess is handbags, according to a company spokeswoman. For fall, the key look is the Hobo bag collection, which is available in a variety of shapes. Guess markets the Hobo with whimsical style names including Banana, Violin and Kidney Hobo, something the firm hopes will attract teens. Animal prints and textures continue to be a mainstay, and for the fall, the firm is adding crocodile and ostrich, as well as long-hair fur looks.
Guess is also focusing on coordinating its fashion and accessories trends. If a fabric is hot for apparel, then it usually works for all accessories at Guess, the spokeswoman said. Guess advertises some of its accessories categories in a variety of youth magazines, including CosmoGirl, Teen People and Seventeen. The category also has a strong presence outdoors on billboards, bus shelters, bus sides, telephone booths and the Internet.
Dollhouse has zeroed in on accessories recently and now has footwear, eyewear and intimates licenses. For fall, the firm is adding a licensed hosiery line. “Dollhouse hosiery is a new, hip collection designed for every teen girl who wants to complement her wardrobe,” said Dana Sheill, director of licensing.
Trends for hosiery are taken from designer fashion, including fishnet stockings, tie-dyed toe socks and space dyes and crochets. Also, there is a special seven day-of-the-week sock collection. “We will offer every silhouette including footlets, anklets, knee-highs and toe socks,” Sheill said.
Dollhouse is advertising in the September issues of Seventeen, Teen, Glamour, Jump, as well as in Teen Vogue’s launch issue.
The firm is currently negotiating a license for handbags, backpack and small leather goods, which is expected to be finalized by mid-August.
At Unionbay, junior categories include handbags, headwear and belts. Unionbay uses licenses that are coordinated to keep the brand image cohesive.
“The market has more pace than others,” said Cathie Underwood, vice president at Unionbay. “That is why it is important to launch new products all the time. Market research is essential. Kids move from one trend to the next quickly.”
Because of this fickleness, getting the perfect timing is essential, she said.
Underwood realizes the power the brand identification has over juniors. Many Unionbay pieces have the brand logo layered on. Unionbay accessories are designed to be ergonomically correct. For fall, there are many interactive bags with compartments and zippers for function and style.
Unionbay is reaching the junior market through a variety of methods, including advertising in Seventeen and Teen People and being a sponsor of the Gravity Games, an extreme-sports event held annually in Rhode Island.
A recently launched jewelry line is attracting attention and brisk growth for Tommy Hilfiger USA in the Tommy Girl group across all jewelry categories, according to Lynn Shanahan, president of licensing.
Hilfiger has a number of licensed accessories categories for juniors, including jewelry, footwear and eyewear, and swimwear is planned for November. The designs for the junior collections take their cue from the Tommy Hilfiger women’s collections and are translated into “fun, wearable items” for teens, the company said.
Tommy Girl is logo-driven and appeals to the junior customer, and the jewelry line carries suggested retail prices of $12 to $38. “You have to be quick to stay on top of the trends in order to provide customers with the key items of the moment,” said Shanahan.
The line addressed the issue of display location by covering more than one option. “Jewelry is on a fixture placed in both main floor accessories and in-store junior shops. The fixture incorporates Tommy elements with a clean, simple look and the classic logo treatment,” said Shanahan.
Advertising for the jewelry is done through the Tommy Jeans campaign, where the models, including teen model Elizabeth Jagger, are shown wearing Hilfiger accessories.