NPD: Handbags Help Boost Q1 Accessories Sales

Sales of moderately priced handbags, like this colorful satchel from Rampage, helped boost first quarter handbag sales by 31%

Sales of moderately priced handbags, like this colorful satchel from Rampage, helped boost first quarter handbag sales by 31%

Port Washington, NY—An upsurge in sales of moderately-priced handbags during the first quarter is helping to contribute an overall improvement in accessories sales at retail, the NPD Group reported today.

According to the NPD’s Consumer Tracking Service, while sales of all accessories rose 17% from January 1 to March 31, sales of women’s accessories led the way in the first quarter.  Women’s accessories sales increased 20% driven mostly by a solid performance in women’s handbags. Dollar sales of total women’s handbags were up 31% versus the same period last year.

The NPD report found there’s a sweet spot emerging in the handbag category, namely handbags with an average retail price of $100. Sales of those bags comprised 46% of the total dollar sales in handbags. That translates into an increase of 9 share points in handbags with that price–a clear indication that women are beginning to spend again on handbags.

Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, NPD Group,  says that the fact women have begun buying again is a positive indicator that a recovery is on the way in the fashion business. “Women are the key to getting the accessories business thriving again—as go women so goes the fashion accessories market,” he adds.

Another Bright Spot: Small Leathergoods

Besides handbags, sales of small leathergoods continue to be a bright spot. Dollar volume sales of small leather goods for both men and women are up 9% for the first quarter this year. In fact, small leathergoods sales were a bright spot even in 2009 when some other accessories classifications were down. For the most recently reported 12-month period ending March 31, small leathergoods sales were up 3%. Sales of wallets, mobile phone cases and wristlets were the key drivers, NPD reports.

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

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