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Feb 1, 2012
A lot of product lines are relatively static, and what was popular 15 years ago is still the standard today. The handbag trade is much different. Styles change by the year, month, and sometimes even the week, so wholesalers need to be cognizant of what is in fashion at the moment, by talking to their customers and keeping a finger on the pulse of the industry. In addition, with so many handbag wholesalers in business, companies try to differentiate themselves through offering superior prices, customer service, unique designs, and low minimum order sizes.
Hua Fu International Trading Corporation, a wholesaler based in New York, has been selling leather-like handbags, scarves and wallets since 1997. With handbags, messengers, totes, backpacks, and evening bags available in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, pockets and straps, each Hua Fu bag is made with high quality materials and features double needle stitching and bounded edges. While Hua Fu has a wide range of products, larger bags have dominated sales recently.
"The bags that are doing really well right now are mostly big everyday bags," says Erxi Chen, store manager. "We sell a lot of those, because they are very trendy right now; a lot of celebrities are carrying big bags. Also, they are popular right now because it is winter, and people like totes that they can put a lot of stuff in. The quality is really good, so you can carry them for years." For example, Chen notes that product numbers A16, 80055, A98, F16 and B5 are affordable everyday bags that have been selling especially well lately.
The wholesaler's website gives customers the opportunity to purchase Hua Fu's merchandise simply and quickly using a credit card or PayPal. "It is very easy to use, and everything we carry is on the website, with pictures that allow you to see each item," Chen adds. "Everything online is in stock, and we have pretty good quantity of each style and color, so its not sold out as soon as you place the order. Hua Fu has a 99 percent fulfillment rate, and we do not charge any handling fees. We charge only what UPS or other freight companies charge us."
Chen notes that markup depends on the area where the seller is located, as New York sellers usually can make at least double, but markup can be as high as 300 to 400 percent in other cities. The minimum order is $100, but only $50 for first time customers, and turnover time is one business day. All of Hua Fu's merchandise, which is consistently being updated with new styles, can be viewed at the company's storefront at 875 Sixth Avenue in New York, open seven days a week.
Fashion Express US is also headquartered in New York City, and began as a handbag retailer in downtown SoHo before expanding into the wholesale business. Now operating out of a midtown Manhattan store with a three floor warehouse located directly behind the showroom, the company designs, imports and manufactures fashion trend handbags that can be ordered online or picked up at the physical location. "We have casual, everyday fashion handbags that you can carry to work, or use after work," says Lisa Lin, sales manager for Fashion Express US. "We have a really good customer base, so even with the economy we are doing very well. If people ordered $1,000 from me before, now they come back with $600 or $700, which allows us to survive well through this slow economy. We are relatively lower-priced than our competitors, usually $2 or $3 less per handbag, so we rely on quantity."
"We depend on long term business relationships with our customers, because that is how we can really survive," Lin adds. "Because this is a very challenging period, everyone is a little sensitive about pricing, but when we have good styles, they still come and buy." She also notes that certain styles fly off the shelves, regardless of the season or the economy, and even if Fashion Express has thousands of the items, they are hard to keep in stock. Lin says the wholesaler has a policy of hiring professional people with good customer service and interpersonal skills, preferably with college degrees, to maintain a high standard of operation.
Fashion Express US recently revamped its website to make the ordering process simpler, and give users the opportunity to select color and quantity together on one page, while maintaining the clean, easy-to-use interface the company has utilized since launching its site in 2006. Additionally, customers can subscribe to the Fashion Express email newsletter, which often announces new styles before they are officially released, and offers a chance to pre-order. Sellers can expect a significant markup on some products, with Lin noting certain models sell wholesale for $15 or $16 and retail for as much as $70.
YaYa Fashion, a California based handbag wholesaler, prides itself on having superior prices for popular styles, with designer-inspired leather-like bags produced in its China factory that feature images such as animals and flowers. Because YaYa does its own manufacturing, the wholesaler can completely control both the quality and price, allowing for better deals and a selection of unique merchandise that others cannot offer. "We are trying to grow our company and maintain a good relationship with our customers, so we pay attention to everything," says Emma Hou, manager of YaYa Fashion. "This means always thinking about new designs. Sometimes we even call customers just to ask them what kinds of styles they want. It is very important to have good customer service and make sure people are satisfied. In this market, where there are so many handbag wholesalers, buyers are looking for style, price, and good customer service." YaYa often has special promotions and occasionally sends newsletters to customers to let them know about sales and new products.
YaYa's website, created in 2011, is highly functional and easy to use. "Our website has many options for customers," Hou notes. "They can compare products and add them to a wishlist, and we have a very good shopping cart. The site is updated two or three times every week, so we have new products frequently and it is highly secure. Customers can provide all their credit card information on our website without any problem."
The minimum order size is $100, and YaYa is currently offering free shipping for orders over $300. Hou adds that the company will soon open a store in downtown Los Angeles, allowing consumers to see and touch the handbags in person. "Customers have questions and sometimes they worry about the bag's quality," she says. "In the fashion district there are a lot of different handbag stores, and this will allow people to walk in and check the bags, and we are sure they will like us."
Bethel International, Inc. has a huge variety of fashion handbags and jewelry, with more than 30,000 products in stock. Located in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the company was started in 1990 and initially started small, selling a few items at flea markets and eventually growing the business into a 30,000-square-foot showroom, built in 2003, with a manufacturing plant in China. "Over the course of 20 years, the product line has changed a lot, but right now we deal mostly in costume jewelry, handbags and scarves," says Jay Kim, general manager. "The most significant impact on our product line was seven years ago, when we decided to begin doing collegiate products, and that is what we are most into now. We are licensed to do women's accessories at most major universities."
Because Bethel has its own facility in China, it can control the type and quantity of the products made far more easily than most wholesalers. Bethel has a number of unique fashion handbags, including the collegiate licensed products that are not available anywhere else. The wholesaler is the number one collegiate handbag manufacturer, and is always updating its product line. "If we do not change the products, then we are not really a fashion wholesaler," Kim notes. "I would say at least every quarter we have new products coming out, whether it is in college or in fashion. With fashion bags, we probably come out with new styles more regularly, and the jewelry is always changing as well. If our website is not changing, then there is something wrong."
Bethel's fashion products and collegiate items are divided into two different websites. BethelWholesale.com features all of the wholesaler's fashion products, and Esandol.com showcases only collegiate items. While BethelWholesale.com has all the collegiate items listed, it does not provide as much product description as Esandol.com. Both sites are easy to navigate, although Kim notes that Bethel Wholesale's catalog can be a little daunting to users, simply due to the huge number of products offered. Pricing is only available to those who log on and become a member by showing a tax ID. There is a $100 minimum for all orders.
Modern Fashion Handbags has been in the handbag industry for the past 20 years, selling wholesale from California since 2007. What enables Modern Fashion to thrive is the company's ability to keep its product line up-to-date. "Our prices are very low and the quality is good," says Tony Xu, manager. "We always update our styles to have the newest things, and every two weeks we have new arrivals." Manufacturing its own women's products such as fashion handbags, purses, wallets, belts and accessories, the wholesaler has a low price guarantee, and Xu notes that buyers should be able to easily sell the handbags retail at keystone, if not triple on certain designs.
Xu adds that the company website is very secure and easy to navigate because it is divided into distinct product lines, with a new arrivals section, and categories that make it simple for users to find specific items. In addition, each product's page has a reviews section, where customers can see what previous buyers have to say about items, and the site has a list of the wholesaler's ten best sellers. Customers must first create an account with Modern Fashion, including their company tax ID number.
For more information:
Hua Fu International Trading Corporation
875 6th Avenue
New York, NY 10001
Fashion Express US
133 W. 30th St.
New York, NY 10001
Toll Free: 877-339-5477
114 E 12th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Bethel International, Inc.
4610 Bragg Blvd.
Fayetteville, NC 28303
1875 N. MacArthur Dr.
Tracy, CA 95376
Topic: Product Trends
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