As the accessory market grows larger, handbags have jumped on to the centre stage as a leading fashion trend driver. The NPD Group - a leading sales and marketing information company - in its just-released report, 'Women's Fashion Accessories: It's All in the Bag', says that 44% of women above 13 buy at least one handbag/purse per year either for themselves or as a gift item. Last year, women bought an average of three handbags for themselves or as gift items.
On an average, women report to embrace at least six handbags. However, the handbag market has a direct connection with age: younger generation owns fewer, while the elders are more into the purchase of new fashion supplement. "Handbags have become a signature item," says Marshal Cohen, Chief Industry Analyst, NPD Group. "Women are purchasing them to make a statement…they look at handbags as an investment to their wardrobe," he adds.
With rise in the economic bracket of all level consumers, more and more handbags are sold than ever before, that too in a wider spectrum of prices, styles and designs. More women are buying more handbags, and for higher prices. The chant in the industry is that handbag is as good investment as a pair of shoes, because handbags are used every day…and that justifies spending more on it.
As handbags got greater recognition on fashion statement, the general approach that handbag is to show personal style without wearing a really crazy outfit saw transformation of once-stodgy companies into trend chasers.
One of the leading names to actively participate in the increased handbag market is Coach, the 65-year-old leather goods firm known for classic handbags. Soon after the executive director, Reed Krakoff, took over the helms of the company eight years ago, Coach threw off its buttoned- down businesswoman image and started hip-hopping up Fashion Avenue. New bags were introduced at a dizzying pace, from two-three per year to two-three per month. Soon, younger and non-corporate women - two segments elusive till then - were collecting Coach bags too.
Besides top brands, which include names like Gucci, Prada, Balenciaga, Fendi, Marc Jacobs and Tod's, Christian Dior, there are also several big fashion-retailing brands in handbag market like Guess and Esprit. Major mainstream retailers like JC Penney, Gap, American Eagle, Ann Taylor, Bebe Stores, Bloomingdales and Chico's also mark a big presence in the handbag market in the US.
On the fashion quotient, the latest addition to the product category has been in terms of handbag pockets. The demand for small, medium and large-size pockets have led to handbag manufacturers coming out with numerous pouches to suit every pocket - be a handbag big or small, the number of pockets is always more than the previous ones used to have. In other words, 'bags with pockets forall purposes' are the bags one looks for these days.
Pockets undoubtedly play an important part in the handbag market, but there are other factors as well. Today not many care for whether a particular handbag matches their shoes, or even the outfit for that matter. Any colour combination is worth new trend. While once the black and brown handbags dominated the market, now it is all about bright colours like lime green, Halloween orange and buttercup yellow. Gucci, a leading brand ruling a big share in the bag market, has come out with green velvet with crocodile trim large-flap bag, orchid velvet and emerald velvet with crocodile trim small-flap bag in its Spring/Summer 2005 collection. Shoulder bag in raffia with mahogany crocodile is the other latest collection inthe bag of Gucci.
More bags feature hardware, trim, appliqué and patterns. Zippers have become a prominent part of handbags. Spring/Summer 2005 line from Prada has ample use of zips as the closure device. Zips in the internal and external pockets see a lot of usage. Leather trims, double handles and removable shoulder straps are some of the extra hard core embellishments. Crescent and clutches have become real hot shapes in demand. Even hobos andlarge bags are back. "A big bag has become an extension of home and office."
Materials other than leather have also made an entry into the market. Canvas with leather trim is a good alternative option, which is less expensive and not as heavy as a leather bag. There is new interest in rope handles, crochet bags and woven basket bags.
Whatever the fashion statement, a bag needs to be roomy, lightweight and secure that carries every need - cosmetic to stationary - of a woman.