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Men'sWeek issue 11/20/2014

The man purse, the men’s handbag, or simply, the “murse.”

This story first appeared in the November 20, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Whatever the term, it’s undeniable that men are becoming more reliant on bigger bags in which to pack all of their technology. It’s even big on the runways. In the spring 2015 shows, brightly colored men’s bags were prominently featured from Fendi to Dior Homme, especially elevated backpacks and soft briefcases in bold prints.

As indispensable items such as the iPhone 6 Plus and the Samsung Note continue to increase in size, trouser and coat pockets are no longer stow-away options.

This is part of the reason that so many established brands are refocusing their energies into the men’s handbag category and retailers are quickly expanding their accessories departments to capitalize on the growing trend.

In the 12 months ended August, total men’s accessories sales reached $14.1 billion, a 10 percent jump over 2013, according to The NPD Group. Bags were the fastest-growing sector, increasing 24 percent over last year to reach $1.9 billion in sales. This outpaced even the red-hot jewelry category, which posted a 12 percent increase to reach $3.7 billion.

Coach Inc., for instance, has seen growth in its men’s accessories line in the past year and has grown from $100 million to now $700 million. Today, the men’s division comprises 14 percent of its overall business.

The brand’s growth falls in line with a recent study by Euromonitor International which found that, in the men’s sector, handbags, backpacks and cross-body bags were the most sought-after items, with sales of handbags and cross-body styles rising 5 and 6 percent, respectively, over the past year. Internationally, men’s personal accessories accounted for 30 percent of all global retail sales in 2014, said Sulabh Madhwal, an analyst for Euromonitor.

“Manbags are gradually becoming more mainstream as they serve as alternatives to business bags,” he said. “Wallets and coin pouches are also likely to see appreciable growth for the male segment [from] 2014 to 2019.”

Madhwal expects that over the next five years, bags will continue to drive the men’s accessories business.

“With the growth of phones, like the new iPhone models, along with other technologies like the iPad and Mac computer, guys are needing a lot more space for all of their stuff,” said Richard Carroll, senior vice president of marketing and creative director at Randa Accessories. Carroll said Randa, which is the industry’s largest licensee within the accessories space with brands such as Dockers, Ryan Seacrest’s Distinction and Vince Camuto, among others, is also seeing growth in hats, belts, gloves and scarves.

“It’s a big business,” he said. “Brands are absolutely behind if they don’t have accessories. Accessories anchor brands.”

Blake Mycoskie, the chief executive officer and founder of Toms, agreed. The charitable footwear company, now in its eighth year, will be venturing into bags in the first quarter of 2015.

“I think a certain segment of the men’s bag business has gotten more casual,” he said. “Herschel has done a great job with the fashionable backpacks, for instance. I think now guys need more space for all that they need in the day. It’s not just a laptop any more; it’s their iPhone, iPad or tablet or Kindle. These are definitely reasons why bags are becoming an everyday necessity.”

Mycoskie projected that his handbag line, which will make its debut with styles for men and women at a price point that ranges from $79 to $269, will eventually grow to 10 percent of the company’s overall sales, with men’s bags accounting for around 2 percent.

In Toms’ signature do-good fashion, every bag sold will result in the donation of birthing kits in Haiti, Bangladesh and India. The kit will include: a tool to cut the umbilical cord, drapery for the new baby, antibacterial soap, gloves and more.

Even smaller brands like Peter Nappi are seeing great returns by venturing into accessories.

“Bags are now a necessity, we don’t have enough of them,” said Nappi, who cofounded his leather goods company in 2011 with his wife, Dana.

His men’s handbags launched this summer and Nappi said they already comprise about 10 to 15 percent of sales.

“The backpacks for men and handbags have done extremely well,” he said, “which isn’t surprising as we’ve had customers come in and demand bags.”

In March, Nappi said the brand will expand further into small leather goods, passport holders, men’s card holders and wallets.

Shinola Detroit, the rising watch brand, is also expanding its leather accessories business and recently hired Richard Lambertson and John Truex as design directors to oversee the area. While timepieces still account for the majority of Shinola’s business, accessories sales have doubled in the past six months, a spokeswoman said.

“We are anticipating a huge potential in accessories in general,” said Daniel Caudill, Shinola’s creative director.

Retailers also see the potential within the accessories category.

Tom Kalenderian, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s wear for Barneys New York, said investing in the growth of men’s leather goods has been a key initiative for the company this year and the retailer has expanded space in its stores to accommodate the growth. Brands that have seen growth and expansion include Balenciaga, Givenchy, Prada, Saint Laurent, Prada and Valextra, among others.

“The strategy is working and men are spending on bags, small leather goods and travel bags at an accelerated rate,” Kalenderian said.

Jewelry has also been popular and Barneys has actually turned to a few women’s brands including Monique Péan, Loren Stewart, Feathered Soul and Suzanne Felsen to request special men’s products to meet the demand.

Bergdorf Goodman is seeing growth in men’s jewelry as well, especially bracelets.

“Jewelry is expanding and it’s so much more personal now,” said Bruce Pask, the store’s men’s fashion director. “It’s no longer occasion-based. What we’re seeing are men wearing personal items for everyday wear. These pieces have become part of their daily wardrobe and they are comfortable with these pieces as part of their identity.”

At Bergdorf, the trend is away from layered chains and toward more structured pieces from brands such as Eddie Borgo and Chrome Hearts.

Kalenderian summed it up this way: “There isn’t a meaningful men’s designer that doesn’t think about serving the total look of the men’s consumer today,” he said. “Accessories not only complete the picture and express the vision of the designer, but also create new business opportunities to expand those brands.”

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