PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y., June 4, 2019 – The same casual athleisure trend that continues to drive growth in the active apparel and sport leisure footwear markets is starting to influence women’s fashion accessories. For the second year in a row, sales of leather bags declined and nylon and other fabric options are now driving significant growth for the U.S. women’s bag market, according to The NPD Group.

While leather still accounted for more than half of dollar sales in the women’s bag market as of the 12 months ending March 2019, declines drove 60 percent of the category’s losses. Vinyl accounted for another 20 percent of sales and 30 percent of the losses. Much smaller in terms of overall sales, nylon, polyester, and cotton options accounted for just 11 percent of all women’s bag dollar sales but accounted for almost 90 percent of the growth this past year.

“Today, fashion is as much about comfort as it is about personal style, and that is carrying over into the way consumers are accessorizing,” said Beth Goldstein, fashion footwear and accessories industry analyst, The NPD Group. “Women’s bags in new silhouettes and new materials are driving the industry forward.”

Otherwise traditional leather silhouettes, like shoulder bags, cross-body bags, totes, shoppers, and satchels are all contributing to leather bag declines. These styles account for 90 percent of total women’s leather bag dollars, and drove as large a share of the losses during the 12 months ending March 2019. The smaller, fast growing categories of fanny/waist packs, and fashion backpacks remain strong, as does leather in the designer space, but designer non-leather/non-vinyl alternatives grew at a faster rate and generated almost as much incremental dollars as did leather.

Both established and emerging brands are promoting nylon and other alternative materials, like ‘vegan leather’, neoprene, and recycled options that may be lighter in weight and easier to clean than leather options. These options can appeal to a consumer looking for day-to-day practicality, as well as those looking for sustainable options.

“New leather goods are facing competition from a multitude of angles – from the casualization of today’s styles to the emphasis on sustainability, and a changing retail market that is helping to extend the life of pre-owned leather products,” said Goldstein. “At the same time, the recent focus on alternative materials and new styles signals opportunity for the fashion accessories market – the opportunity to capture the consumer’s attention again.”

Source: The NPD Group / Retail Tracking Service

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