Certain high profile apparel chains are expanding their collections of accessories, trying to boost overall sales and take up some of the slack left by dipping clothing sales. J. Crew Inc., for example, opened its first accessories boutique in Manhattan's Soho neighborhood. In addition, it will release a third accessories catalog this year. According to published reports, accessories accounted for about $165 million, or 12 percent of total sales in 2008. That is nearly double accessories' contribution to J. Crew sales in 2004.
Banana Republic, owned by Gap Inc., has launched Edition, a branch that sells only accessories. Henri Bendel, owned by Limited Brands Inc., added six standalone accessories stores this summer. The shift to increased emphasis on accessories is based on a number of factors, according to retail experts. Not least is the fact that consumers are spending less on new clothes and using new accessories to spiff up their existing wardrobes.
In addition, many accessories, including jewelry and handbags, typically have higher margins (often at least double) than apparel. Accessories take less space and are less vulnerable to the whims of fashion. Furthermore, many of them are seasonless.
According to NPD Group, a market research firm, accessory sales are still growing. Women's accessory sales by units for the three months ended April 30 were up two percent from a year earlier, according to NPD Group. Women's jewelry item sales were up five percent, and men's and women's watches and sunglasses were up 11 percent and five percent. By contrast, women's apparel sales in units were down about 5.6 percent over the same three month period.
More than a third of consumer respondents in a Shopping Habits Survey conducted by Shop It To Me, an online personal shopping service, said they were, "still splurging," on shoes. Nearly a quarter said the same of handbags.
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