Byline: Jill Newman

What a difference a year makes. Just 12 months ago, hair accessories were among the hottest items in accessories departments, largely driven by the hair jewelry trend that was ubiquitous in magazines and on practically every prime time sitcom.
Once the trend hit the masses and eventually was even being sold by urban street vendors, store sales came to a screeching halt.
After digging out from excess inventories over the past several months, retailers could be forgiven for being more than a bit hesitant to load their open-to-buys with hair accessories anytime soon.
But in fact, retailers are taking it in stride, still optimistic about the category and even expectant of new opportunities emerging for the holiday season.
“There was a point when you could not get enough jeweled butterfly clips in the store to sell,” recalled Patricia Saxby, divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics, fragrance and hair accessories at Bergdorf Goodman. “When that trend slowed down, we moved into something else.”
Retailers are banking on key accessories trends — colorful fur and exotic skins among them — to give hair accessories a jump start.
Even in the cyclical world of fashion accessories, hitting on the right hair goods trend can be especially tricky. The business is intensely trend-driven and when a hot item presents itself, retailers need to react very quickly or risk missing a lucrative opportunity.
Having experienced the recent highs and lows of hair goods, retailers said they will approach the classification with some caution for the fourth quarter, but at the same time, they will be ready to respond to hot trends as they develop.
“As a merchant, we need to identify new, hot trends and move aggressively, which often means taking some risks,” said Eileen Warner, divisional merchandise manager for accessories at Saks Fifth Avenue. “Once a trend starts taking off, we will go after it aggressively.”
Saks, like other stores, did not foresee the slowdown of hair jewelry, Warner conceded. “Last September, when hair jewelry started to decline, we were dominant in our assortment,” she said. “But we worked our way out of it. The business is more year-round today, and we sell a range of trend merchandise, and tortoise basics.”
According to Heidi Cohen, associate buyer at Henri Bendel, hair accessories sales have slowed down, but remain fairly consistent. She said the New York store continues to sell about 160 hair jewelry items a week. Bendel’s, known for its large selection of hair accessories, will keep its budget flexible for fall and holiday to respond to any emerging trends.
“In this category, we buy month-to-month,” said Cohen. “We see new merchandise weekly, and we are on the lookout for the next hot trend.”
There are encouraging signs that hair accessories will gain some momentum this holiday, based on the prevailing fashion trends.
Sandra Wilson, fashion director for accessories at Neiman Marcus, pointed out that the ladylike influence in fashion lends itself to hair accessories. “We may see a resurgence of elegant, ladylike hair styles pulled back in ponies or headbands, which is reminiscent of Chanel looks from years past.”
She said the gold chain seen in belts and handbags can also translate into hair accessories. Currently, headbands and pony cuffs in python, crocodile and lizard are starting to sell at retail, and Wilson said she expects that trend to continue into fall. Moving into holiday, she said the addition of more luxurious fabrics with iridescent finishes, and embellishments such as beading could further bolster sales.
At Saks, the emphasis for holiday will be on fabric, mink and rabbit ponies and headbands. “The business is still viable, but it has shifted from hair jewelry to fabrics and headbands,” said Saks’ Warner. “There is a lot happening in leather accessories, including suede, patchwork and skins which we can interpret in hair goods.”
Among the top-performing resources at Saks are Ann Vuille, Colette Malouf, Eve Reid and Gerard Yosca.
Colette Malouf has created an exclusive collection of fur accessories for Bergdorf’s in teal blue, burnt orange and red.
“We have done well with fashion-forward and luxurious items,” said Saxby, who added that she expects to see gains this holiday season in hair accessories. Among the key resources in the department are Gerard Yosca, Deborah Moises and R.J. Graziano.
At Barneys, Pucci-style print headbands and basic tortoise merchandise are the strong sellers. Looking ahead, the store will add some fur hair accessories and continue to highlight felt headbands from New York designer Jennifer Ouellette, who has been a best-selling resource.
Pucci-inspired prints will also be prominent in the assortment at Bendel’s, according to Cohen. Also presenting will be a mix of private label and designer merchandise, including fur ponies and headbands and soft fabric hair accessories in gold, black and white. She said the strongest brands are Flower Power, Medusa, Charles Whaba’s tortoise goods and new horn accessories from De Renaudin.

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