Marshal Cohen is Chief Industry Analyst, The NPD Group, Inc. He is a nationally known expert on the retail industry and consumer behavior. He has followed retail trends for more than thirty years, both at NPD and as the head of leading retailers, as well as fashion and apparel companies. Marshal is also the author of two books, Why Customers Do What They Do and more recently Buy Me! New Ways to Get Customers to Choose Your Product and Ignore the Rest.
In addition to his duties at NPD, Marshal is a guest professor at North Carolina State University, School of Textiles. He is introducing students and faculty to techniques for analyzing and applying data. Marshal has also been a guest lecturer at Savannah College of Art and Design, the Fashion Institute of Technology – Fashion Marketing and Merchandising, and the Wharton School of Business – Jay H. Baker Retailing Initiative.
Q: What were some of the highlights in the handbag market for the first half of 2011?
A: Some of the bright spots in are: In department stores and national chain stores total handbag and totes sales posted a 6% growth rate for the first half of 2011. While handbag sales, alone were up 3%, tote bags and shoppers were up 11%. These results show the consumer is right back where they left off prior to the downturn and are returning to bags and more so, totes and shoppers.
The silhouettes doing well currently and represent the extremes. Styles with a large silhouette: satchels (+35%), tote bags/shoppers (+11%) and styles with a smaller profile: mini-bags (+52%), are doing well for the first half of the year. Cross-body bags are also doing well. Sales of that style are +16% and likely due to its ability to free up ones hands to carry those tote bags and text on cell phones. It has gone from “bigger is better” to “big enough but practical too” as the choices the consumer is making determine the size of the bag to carry.
Q: How important are online sales to the accessory market? If so, how do businesses grow their share?
A: Online sales continue to grow across all categories. This is a retail channel that has clearly engaged the consumer and can no longer be ignored or treated as secondary. We have seen the online sales of men’s and women’s footwear continue to grow by double digits. Accessories, while tapping into the power of the online channel still has room for improvement.
NPD market data shows that 15% of all accessories sales are made online and for watches and luggage it is 20%. Sunglasses has the lowest penetration at 8%.
Q: What is your outlook for women’s boots sales?
A: We have all seen the popularity of boots increase. The real question is will they continue to grow. The answer is yes, this year, despite the comps they will be up against, boot sales will grow. We know that the 4th quarter of the year is traditionally the time when women’s boot sales peak, coupled with the fact that boots have become a coveted holiday gift, we expect to see continued growth in the sales of women’s boots.
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