Accessories Market Showing Signs of Recovery, Led by Handbags

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According to The NPD Group, Inc.'s Consumer Tracking Service, the fashion accessories market was down 10% from January through December 2009, however, a strong first quarter in 2010 hints at a recovery.  January — March fashion accessories sales were up 17%, and as a result, the market was down just 6% for the 12 months ending March 31, 2010.

"Overall accessories still have a way to go  to show that they are firmly in recovery mode," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group, Inc., "However there are some significant indications that consumers are selectively reaching back into  the fashion accessories business to begin their return to spending."

It was sales of women's accessories that led the way for the first quarter of 2010.  Total women's fashion accessories were up 20%, driven by a solid performance in women's handbags. Dollar volume sales of total women's handbags were up 31% vs. the same period in 2009.

A closer look at the results shows that some of the drivers behind the growth can be found in the sales of handbags with an average price of $100. Sales of those bags comprised 46% of the total dollar sales in the handbag market. That translates to an increase of 9 share points in handbags with that price point, and suggests that women are beginning to spend on handbags again.

"Women are going to be the key to getting the accessories business thriving again…as go women so goes the fashion accessories market," said Cohen, "And as we exit the great recession, and we see women begin their return to spending on fashion accessories, I think that will become a leading indicator of the fashion business' return to a sense of normalcy."

The small leather goods category for both men's and women's had been a bright spot for all of 2009 and continues to post positive results for the first quarter of 2010. Dollar volume sales of small leather goods for both men and women were up 9% for the first quarter of 2010 and for the most recently reported 12 month period ending March 31, 2010, sales were up 3%.  Purchases of wallets, mobile phone cases and wristlets were the key drivers of this growth.

"It sure looks like the recession took a big bite out of big accessories. Statement pieces have given way to more affordable, practical small leather goods like wallets and phone cases," observed Cohen, "I'd say this is a clear sign of the shift consumers are making from ‘conspicuous consumption' to ‘calculated consumption.'"

[Source:  Consumer Tracking Service.  The NPD Group. 24 May 2010.  Web.  2 June 2010.]