From handbags to sunglasses, luggage to diaper bags, keychains to lipstick cases, The NPD Group knows what accessories are selling, where they’re selling best, and who is doing the buying.
Because we collect information from more than 1,300 retailers, including both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar, and field 12 million consumer surveys each year, The NPD Group is recognized by the industry, the media, and others as the leading source of research and solutions for the fashion accessories markets.
We take our robust data and industry expertise and combine it with your data or third-party data to address your business issues, from opportunity identification to program evaluation.
Track sales of accessories in department stores and national chains. The NPD Group delivers the most detailed point-of-sale (POS) information available in the accessories industry to guide your critical business decisions.
Understand who is buying accessories, and how, why, and where they are shopping. Based on market research information straight from consumers, the service delivers an unmatched view across all retail channels in the U.S. In Canada, the Consumer Tracking Service focuses on apparel.
Account Level Reports
These reports enable retailers who choose this option to share their information with approved vendors, allowing vendors to analyze business performance at specific retailers down to the item level in many instances. By making this report available to their vendors, retailers can work together with them to optimize performance. These reports may only be made available with the express permission of the retailer.
Checkout delivers the most comprehensive view of consumer purchase behavior for general merchandise categories, across all retailers over time, to help you understand how to adjust your marketing to fuel growth. Checkout E-commerce offers the most complete and accurate view of the online channel – including first and third-party sales for Amazon and other marketplaces, 400+ e-commerce retailers including direct-to-consumer, and an early read on emerging players.
NPD’s Analytic Solutions group includes senior leaders with extensive experience developing and delivering analytic solutions that help clients predict areas of risk and growth to improve marketing and product development. By combining NPD’s unique data assets and industry expertise with state-of-the-discipline research techniques and proprietary solutions, our Analytic Solutions team is able to answer clients’ most pressing business questions.
This report combines our retail point-of-sale information with Stylitics reporting on the ClosetSpace app. Pinpoint latest trends and emerging areas of growth in the handbag market. Learn which items to keep an eye on – and get expert analysis on what the trends really mean.
Women’s Jeans Sales Are Up in the U.S. Proving That Athleisure Wear and Denim Do Co-Exist in the Same Wardrobe
he NPD Group’s President of Fashion Footwear, Accessories, Watches and Luxury, Lori Monaco, was honored with the President’s Award at the 22nd annual ACE Awards on June 11, 2018. Hosted by The Accessories Council, the ACE Awards honor individuals and companies who have furthered the awareness and use of accessories.
Function and Luxury Come Together to Deliver Growth Opportunities in Fashion Accessories, Reports NPD
Consumers are engaging with fashion accessories, including bags, small personal accessories, and luggage, that deliver functionality, luxury, or both, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Despite overall declines in the nearly $1.8 billion fashion accessories industry, bright spots exist in the most functional and fashion-focused ends of the spectrum, as well as where the two worlds are converging.
The three key components of the $334 billion retail fashion segment, apparel, footwear, and fashion accessories, are each in different positions when it comes to the business, according to leading global information company The NPD Group. The apparel industry, which represents 65 percent of total U.S. retail fashion dollar sales and spans everything from basics to jeans, continues to enjoy the consistent growth experienced over the past few years. Conversely, the more trend-driven footwear and fashion accessories industries are now experiencing sales declines, keeping overall retail fashion sales in the 12 months ending February 2017 even with results from the prior year.
Sales of smaller size handbags are on the rise and smaller money accessories, like card cases and coin purses, are cashing in on the trend. According to The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Dollar sales of money accessories – other than wallets – increased 13 percent, to almost $23 million in the 12 months ending October 2016.
The NPD Group, a global provider of information and advisory services, today announced that it has acquired Brazil-based Sim2M, a South American leader in market research for the toys industry. The acquisition by NPD’s Brazilian subsidiary, NPD Brasil Market Research Services Ltda., expands NPD’s global footprint, reinforcing its position as the preeminent provider of toys industry market research.
In the 12 months ending September 2016, premium point-and-shoot cameras and instant print cameras are two of the categories that have experienced growing dollar sales, as camera makers focus on offering unique products targeted to specific customer needs and interests. According to global information company The NPD Group, sales of premium point-and-shoot cameras (priced above $1,000) have grown 24 percent over the last 12 months (ending September 2016), led by Sony, Fujifilm and Leica. Separately, the resurgence of a retro trend – instant print cameras – has led to an increase of 148 percent in sales during that same period.
One-third of the handbags purchased in the U.S. in the 12 months ending June 2016 did not have a visible logo, according to The NPD Group, a leading global information company. The sales of handbags without a visible logo increased their share of the market in the past year, and this is a style trend that is crossing generations.
The Millennial Consumer’s Handbag Shopping Journey is More Like Buying a Car than Clothing, Reports NPD
The Millennial customer treats a handbag purchase as a multi-step process, and 41 percent said they started thinking about their most recent handbag purchase more than a month in advance, according to a new report from global information company The NPD Group, created in partnership with Stylitics. The New Handbag Customer Revealed 2016 study examines the closets and mindset of Millennial women to understand their needs, aspirations, inspirations, and the triggers that make them purchase.
Travel retail is booming. Airport traffic grew 8% globally over the last year, and that growth is predicted to continue, averaging +8% annually through 2026.
The U.S. fashion industry is rapidly changing. At the same time, a flurry of factors – including shifts in consumer shopping behavior, retail closures, new celebrity influencers, and today’s macro trends – are having an impact on consumer spending. Here’s a look at 5 fashion trends we’re watching right now.
The back-to-school season now includes more options for the consumer than ever before. We took a look at how U.S. consumers shopped for back-to-school products in 2017 to help you plan for the 2018 season.
The back-to-school season isn't about one-stop shopping anymore. Find out what it is about these days.
The news that Coach Inc. is buying Kate Spade & Co. for some $2.4 billion -- a substantial 27.5 percent premium over Friday’s closing share price -- had us wondering what could justify such a price.
As U.S. consumers become more watchful of their diets, new eating trends are emerging. Take a look at some of our latest insights to understand the evolution of public health and wellness.
Understanding what diet and health-conscious consumers really think and feel and how they act is critical to keeping a pulse on social trends.
As the small personal accessories market continues its growth, it is important to stay ahead of trends and see hot categories up close.
The U.S. handbag market is changing fast. Consumer preferences, particularly among Millennials, are changing rapidly. To outsmart competitors, it’s critical for you to understand what’s happening, anticipate changes, and constantly refine your strategies.
See new insights that go against traditional expectations of the handbag customer. Learn about the evolving handbag shopping journey!
Insights and Opinions from our Analysts and Experts
As we head into this holiday season, I’m happy to report that there is finally momentum in the fashion accessories market. The declines in the accessories business over the past three years have leveled out a bit - through September, year-over-year trends in all categories have improved, and there are clear bright spots that will carry into the holiday season.
Status Symbols Endure
The women’s designer bag and small personal accessories market remains on fire, up 17 percent in the first ten months of 2018*. This will continue through holiday as the smaller, more “accessible” price point items in this space will be among the most sought after items.
Hands-Free Versatility Lends a Hand
Fashion backpacks, fanny/waist packs, crossbody bags, and shoulder bags and wallets with convertible straps are helping to offset losses from satchels and totes. Consumers have become very passionate about function, so products with more features and brands that promote ease of use and multi-occasion wear this holiday will stand out as offering value, even at high price points.
The luggage business has taken off (pun intended), up 16 percent so far this year.* Consumers are looking for products that make travel easier, and the innovation spanning luggage, bags, and small accessories will propel these products through holiday. Digitally native brands with strong social media presence and storytelling will gain share of both mind and wallet.
Make it Your Own
The ability to customize and personalize everything from jewelry and bags to luggage and small accessories will attract shoppers looking for unique gifts, and inspire self-gifting among those looking to express their own individuality. Brands and retailers are offering lots of opportunities to accessorize accessories this holiday, both in-store and online.
The Danish trend of hygge has fully caught on in the U.S., promoting comfort and coziness for all. I expect the cold-weather accessories business will benefit from this, regardless of how cold and snowy the season is.
Source: The NPD Group/Consumer Tracking
*Source: The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service, January-October 2018
I travel a lot, but I haven’t bought a new suitcase in about ten years. I’m sure I’m in good company, which is clearly a problem for luggage sellers. Luggage has historically been a sleepy market, but now it has become a growth business, and one of the most interesting accessories categories that we follow at NPD.
Consumers traveling in record numbers – according to the U.S. Travel Association, domestic and foreign airlines servicing the U.S. carried 965 billion passengers in 2017, up +3.4% from 2016. But, as I’ve noted in prior articles, they’ve also learned to appreciate and require function in many of the products they use daily, including bags and luggage. The popularity of travel and the desire for functional items that make travel easier has driven a six percent increase in luggage dollar sales during the 12 months ending May 2018, compared to a two percent decline in sales of bags.*
Perhaps the most notable aspect of the luggage growth over the past year is that almost 80 percent of the incremental dollars were generated online. Online luggage sales grew 20 percent last year, on top of 15 percent growth the year before, making it the fastest growing accessories category online for both years.* Brands and retailers are leveraging their websites and social media to promote travel, as well the features and benefits of their products, and doing so in great detail. (I can’t get enough of the Instagram videos that show in time-lapse fashion where to place every item you could possibly bring with you.) Ebags, the number seven luggage retailer overall, and number two online,* has a Travel Center with a Luggage Buying Guide, as well as travel guides and tips from its Ambassadors.
A number of online luggage start-ups have also emerged, all with great stories to tell, claiming they’ve designed the perfect carry-on. Although they have driven innovation and newness in the category, it hasn’t been all rosy for these new digitally native luggage start-ups. Two of the more prominent entrants, which focused on their smart-technologies like device charging, weight measurement, and bag tracking, have folded due to airline restrictions and confusion surrounding built-in lithium-ion batteries. And recently, the New York Times’ Wirecutter review site suggested that outfitting non-smart luggage with a few tech accessories was a more cost-effective and hassle-free option than buying a smart carry-on.**
Despite the boom in travel and consumers’ interest in functional products (two phenomena which are likely to continue), luggage will remain a low purchase frequency category over the long-term. However, continued innovation will help to shorten the purchase cycle, as will marketing strategies that target new generations of travelers. The most important thing that brands and retailers need to remember is that they aren’t just selling suitcases – they are selling the travel experience and products that enhance that experience. They’ll need to expand their product lines, within reason, to incorporate complementary products, like travel accessories, travel-oriented footwear, and even an experiential or service component like travel recommendations and trip planning assistance. Away, a travel upstart, is still in the game because they recognize that they are in the travel business, not the luggage business. Rather than highlighting a feature or item, Away’s messaging focuses on how their products can make being away easier.
As we all know, traveling is stressful. Brands and retailers that aim to make it a little less so will be able to sustain a healthy business in the long run. In fact, I’m sold – time for a new carry-on.
*The NPD Group/Consumer Tracking Service, 12 ME May ‘18
It’s been quite some time since Nordstrom announced that they were going to be opening their first Nordstrom Rack store in Canada; and since then, there has been significant buzz around when this was going to happen. Well a few weeks ago the doors to the first location at Vaughan Mills Mall finally opened and with all the anticipation and buzz, I decided to go check it out for myself.
The first question I keep getting asked is why did it take so long and why do you think there was such a delay. As we have seen with most successful retail imports, slow and steady seems to win the race. However, it was interesting to me that Nordstrom went ahead and expanded their regular banner stores before opening their off-price banner - kind of the opposite strategy that we had seen with Saks Fifth Avenue. This is made even more interesting by the fact that the off-price channel in Canada was the fastest growing channel in 2017 and continued to outperform the market growing +12 per cent from last year.
After visiting the first Nordstrom Rack store it became obvious that this was done with a very strategic approach and every detail of the opening was thought out in an effort to ensure that the Rack would be successful and the buzz would not fade. Here are a few insights I took away from my visit:
- There was clearly a strategic decision here to use the regular Nordstrom stores as the branding vehicle. Essentially keeping the essence of the Nordstrom brand intact while offering discounted options. Nordstrom had brought a certain “cool” factor and younger energy to the Canadian landscape that had been missing and using that voice in the off-price space would fill that void that the channel has been lacking. This would also help acquire a stronger presence with the Millennial consumer as off-price is under indexed in the only generation cohort that posted In-store growth from a year ago.
- The level of transparency in labeling was fascinating but also so needed in the off-price space. At Nordstrom Rack everything was clearly labeled without any hidden agendas, such as “Designer Shoes” and “From Our Nordstrom Stores”. To me this removed the disarray out of the hunt and created a guided shopping experience.
- A major difference between Canada and the US is that Canada is specialty focused with over 50 per cent of apparel dollar sales traced to specialty stores vs. only 25 per cent in the US. Nordstrom Rack really played into this by merchandising by commodity not department as each key commodity was labeled and merchandised so it was very easy to shop. This really engages the way Canadians shops.
The second question I get asked is there room for another off-price player in the Canadian landscape, isn’t this space already crowded?
If we look at the US, 12 per cent of the apparel dollar sales are traced to off-price where in Canada only it’s only 7 per cent - that’s a 3pt. gap of opportunity. And to take that further in Canada 93 per cent of the off-price channel sales are traced to 2 major players where in the US 95 per cent of the off-price channel sales are traced to 7 retailers.
So whether this increases competition, thereby driving market growth, or opens the door for the channel expansion, one thing is for certain – the Canadian market does in fact have room for more off price players.
So welcome to the Great White North, Nordstrom Rack!
I really wish I came up with that simple yet clever term, but the credit goes to a New York Times columnist, writing about the fourth snowstorm to hit the Northeast in March, which arrived after the official start of spring. Now of course no one is under any illusion that come March 20 it will, all of a sudden, be sandal weather, but 12 to 18 inches of snow post-vernal equinox does seem a bit excessive.
A week or so ago, on the day of the third Nor’easter of the month, I noted the number of promotional emails related to spring in my inbox: “Spring is just one week away!” “New season, new styles!” “Warmer days ahead!” It was like someone clearly missed the memo. A few days before that (just after the second storm in March), I walked by a prominent independent shoe store in my neighborhood and saw a letter paper-sized printed sign in the window that read “WE HAVE BOOTS!” The window was full of sandals, so the sign was needed, or else someone looking for boots might have just kept walking.
Clearly the footwear (and broader retail) industry is still challenged to adapt the flow of product. Industry players have talked at length about the fact that the retail calendar does not align with the actual seasons, nor with the mindsets of consumers as they look to “buy now, wear now.” Since I’m on the topic of snow, it’s worth pointing out that dollar and unit sales of winter/snow boots have declined by 10-15 percent during each of the past two boot seasons*. But, while we don’t have March 2018 results yet (as it is still more than a week away from month-end as I write this), looking back at March dollar and unit sales for 2016 and 2017 reveals small dollar volume, but double-digit growth each year. This suggests that consumers have an increasing appetite for this type of product in March, whether it be out of actual need or just acting opportunistically, taking advantage of post-season clearance sales (which are apparent given the rapid deterioration of price points versus earlier in the season). Not surprisingly, the top growth designated market areas (DMAs) for winter/snow boots in March for the past two years combined are New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Boston.**
So you know the saying “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb?” Well, that lion seems to be hanging around a bit longer these days, so perhaps there is some opportunity for brands and retailers to take advantage. In addition to the spring email marketing I received on the day of a snowstorm, I have been pleased to see a few other messages over the last week that recognize the fact that it is still cold and snowy in the Northeast, promoting the appropriate products. But, what if we took it one step further? With seasons blurring together and late winter/early spring seemingly colder and snowier than ever, February/March could be a good time to release a limited quantity of new snow boot styles scheduled for full launch during the upcoming fall/winter. This newness and limited supply could potentially entice consumers who have not yet bought a new pair to do so, and/or create demand for the full launch later in the year.
*The NPD Group/ Retail Tracking Service, 6 months ending February 2018 and 2017
**The NPD Group/ Retail Tracking Service, March 2017 and 2016
Fashion footwear and accessories players are looking for opportunity in 2018, following a soft 2017. I expect fashion footwear sales in the U.S. to improve slightly and fashion accessories, such as bags and jewelry, to contract a bit more. But, there are and will continue to be successes in both markets if brands and retailers focus on comfort, convenience, and curation.
Comfort is not just an added benefit anymore – it’s a necessity. Consumers have grown accustomed to wearing activewear and sneakers, and they don’t want to give up that comfort when they are wearing boots or dress shoes. Closing out 2017, the women’s active/leisure and comfort brand segments together grew seven percent in an overall flat women’s fashion footwear market. In addition, women’s designer continues to be a key growth area – led by sneakers, as well as fashion boots and mules with low-mid heels. And, particularly in the men’s space, the bridge segment is being driven by brands that have incorporated athletic and comfort elements into their dress and casual styles. This momentum in sport leisure and comfort will continue into 2018.
In accessories, the idea of comfort has manifested itself in the growth of backpacks for adult wearers over the age of 25, particularly for work and travel (or anytime).* In 2018, we will see more convertible styles, and new entrants into the market will steal share as the major players in the bag market fall behind in terms of innovation.
Function and versatility is top of mind (think Instant Pot!). Similar to their housewares and technology, consumers are also looking for their footwear and accessories to do more than one thing, or to perform in a variety of conditions. Consumers will place value on features such as weatherproofing, ability to style multiple ways (i.e. adjust the boot shaft height or straps), and year-round relevance.
Bags, luggage, and small personal accessories must meet the demands of busy lifestyles, offering fashion along with functional elements – lightweight materials, multiple straps to keep hands free, and pockets to organize tech and other daily essentials are the kinds of features consumers will be seeking. The designer market will not be immune to these demands.
Expect tighter assortments. Retailers are looking to keep demand high and inventories under control. Personalization options will increase in footwear, bags, and jewelry. But, on the opposite end of the spectrum, direct-to-consumer start-ups like Allbirds, Rothy’s, and Away offer very focused selections of feature-rich products, meant to appeal to broad target audiences by solving problems that they didn’t even know they had. More established brands need to sharpen their stories.
In 2018, consumers will be asking, “What have you done for me lately?” And in response, footwear and accessories brands and retailers must be thinking about how their products will fit into and enhance everyday life. Messaging and shopping experiences that address this focus will be critical. Consumers are willing to spend, but they want their dollars to go further. If you can demonstrate more than one of the three C’s, you’ll be on track to take share.
The NPD Group / Retail Tracking Service, 3 months ending December 2017
*The NPD Group / Consumer Tracking Service, 6 months ending December 2017
We have been hearing the drumbeat for some time… We are in search of meaningful experiences and, as consumers, we are now comfortable trading our spending on material acquisition for the intangible. As conspicuous consumption falls by the wayside, we increasingly look to acquire memories that include personal connections and meaningful experiences. According to NPD’s 2017 Holiday Purchase Intentions Study, 39 percent of U.S. consumers plan to give intangible, or experiential, gifts this holiday season. Of those consumers, 23 percent plan to purchase a gift to be used for travel.
CiR has found that the Americans have been expanding their horizons with growth in international travel (up 7 percent in the 12 months ending September 2017). According to NPD’s Consumer Tracking Service, luggage is one of the healthiest fashion categories, showing double digit growth this past year. Boomers remain the largest generational segment and CiR finds that those ages 45 ages up represent 56 percent of all U.S. international travelers. However, Millennials are catching up with a 19 percent growth rate – they now represent 27 percent of all dollars spent on luggage. Not to be overlooked, Gen X’s purchasing is sizable as well; growing 13 percent from last year and representing 22 percent of total category dollars. We all seem to be ‘on the go’!
New brands are popping up to address this wanderlust consumer. Luggage pioneers are exploring new ways to enable successful travel. Away.com (Awaytravel.com) offers luggage and travel accessories for the “thoughtful traveler”. Raden (https://www.raden.com/) provides fully tech-enabled functionality from weight sensors to removable built-in phone chargers that connect seamlessly to their mobile app. G-Ro (https://g-ro.com/) has designed luggage with large rugged wheels that can take even the most daunting curb with one pass. Modobags ( http://modobag.com/) has launched a motorized suitcase that scoots you along those long and tedious walks to the gate – “The carry-on that carries you” can start your trip with a smile.
Designer brands are also tossing their hat into the travel ring with expert partnerships. Globe-Trotter and Tiffany & Co. have partnered, offering consumers a limited-edition luggage collection which boasts the brand's iconic 'Tiffany Blue' packaging, while Italian fashion house Fendi produced its first line of elegant hard case luggage with Fendi branded Cuoio Romano leather handles, created in collaboration with Rimowa.
Having just come back from the heart of India, I can attest to the need to streamline my packing. Traveling light and efficiently allows you to leave plenty of room for exotic purchases, and don’t forget to throw in a collapsible nylon bag for any of the overflow, just in case you cannot live without a bit of consumption.
Sneakers! Mules! Over the Knee Boots! Ankle Booties! Over the past few years it seems that every fashion conversation starts and ends with footwear. Today we build our wardrobe around what we have on our feet so it’s no surprise that specialty apparel retailers have taken note and have added footwear to their assortment.
Footwear in Canada is outperforming and growing 3X faster than the apparel industry. So when growth is being sought out, it seems like a natural approach to expand into footwear.
The thing is, the footwear market is evolving faster than the apparel Industry and the growth is being driven by consumer demand and a growing tendency to “see now, buy now”. Footwear is now about how fast can you produce the must have shoe that was just seen on the runways or on the top coveted influencer. A movement that was coined “fast fashion” in the apparel industry has hit the footwear industry. This “fast fashion” is the outcome of consumer demand and is driven by the expectation of having what they want when they want it.
In today’s footwear market, if you missed the shoe of the season you might have missed the season, and catching the trend at the tail end of the cycle can result in big markdowns, or the dreaded look of being stale and passé.
This past August I walked the FN PLATRFORM show in Las Vegas, scouting what the brands had to offer and what occurred was every brand had the same 4 styles: the minimalist sneaker, the slide, the mule and the open toe ankle bootie.
And for those stand out brands that were showing something new and were keeping up with what the “influencers” were wearing…I wanted it right now! Traditionally the footwear that was being shown in August at Platform would only hit the stores in the spring. So how fast does fast footwear need to be to keep up with consumer demand? And why is the industry working on a cycle that is behind the cycle demanded by the consumer?
If these traditional footwear manufacturers cannot keep up with demand, then the apparel specialty stores might just be able to steal some of the share.
Fashion trends are a funny thing. Whether it’s mom jeans or bomber jackets, rompers or Birkenstock’s, you never quite know what the next “in thing” will be.
Well earlier this week as I was on my way to the office I caught a glimpse of something that caught my eye…a young, hip looking guy was sporting trendy jeans and a pair of Stan Smiths with a tee adorned with a large Levi’s logo. The same day on my way home from the office I noticed yet another young gentleman wearing the exact same tee as he peddled his fixie around town. Coincidence? I think not.
Intrigued, I decided to take to social media to see if I could find any more proof of this new “it thing”. As I scrolled through my Instagram feed, I noticed something rather “fresh”, or for those of us that have already lived through it before shall we say “old school”. Right before my eyes I was seeing dozens of posts featuring young, hip girls and guys sporting unisex heritage branded tees with large logos.
Interestingly, it seems NPD data supports my observation. In Canada, within the new millennial category (aged 21-33) branded logo tees grew 3 times faster than basic tees in the first 5 months of the year. And with this segment being the only segment posting growth in the non-active market (year to date), it’s no wonder that brands and retailers are taking action and wanting a piece of the pie.
For example, in honor of Canada 150, Club Monaco launched the #ClubThrowback collection which was a collection of basic tees and sweats featuring their vintage heritage logo, available exclusively and limited to some Canadian Brick and Mortar stores. Another example is the Canadian retailer Simons that has the exclusive for Canada with the 80’s brand Vuarnet, and we cannot forget beloved 90’s brands like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger that are the natural choice for these branded logo tees.
It seems that both my observations and the data confirm that Norm Core is in full effect! Now it’s time for me to go out and buy a full-size logo tee to add to my wardrobe.
I’ve finally done it. I had to. My shoulders couldn’t take it anymore. What major life change am I referring to? I made the switch from tote bag to backpack for work and travel. And it’s great.
It took me a long time to find the right backpack – not too bulky, and something that wouldn’t make me look like I was heading to class instead of to the office. There actually isn’t a lot out there that fit the bill. With the exception of a few brands that are actively fusing fashion with function, most fashion backpacks can’t accommodate all that is needed for the workday (and beyond), which is what I attribute the seven percent backpack sales decline to during the three months ending February 2017. And, this decline happened despite the fact that we are seeing more backpacks in-store and on the street, from designer to mainstream.
First, I want to put the backpack sales decline into perspective. The overall bag category is having one of its toughest years in recent history. Dollar sales of women’s and unisex bags declined 18 percent in the three months ending February 2017, so the backpack segment outperformed the total bags business during this period. In addition, compared to two years ago, backpack sales are up 60 percent.
The more recent decline troubles me because I would expect the backpack category to be experiencing continued growth. Coming off of the strong growth last year, retailers bumped up their backpack assortments; the average number of items sold in stores where backpacks are carried grew 18 percent. This increased assortment did not lead to more sales, meaning the sales velocity per item (a measure of how fast an item sells) decreased. It’s not a good sign when more items are available but we see lower sales. This suggests that despite the fact that brands and retailers are giving us more backpack options, they might not be the right options.
I see the problem as a fashion vs. function disconnect. The major fashion bag brands have an opportunity to infuse more features, like convertible straps or room for a laptop, into their backpack styles, or risk losing their consumer. New brands are entering the market, and brands more traditionally focused on function (like athletic and luggage brands) are now upping their style game. On a positive note, there are some leading indicators that the softness in this category might be reversed soon. The Middle Atlantic and Pacific census divisions, two very important regions when it comes to fashion trends, are seeing an increase in velocity per item for fashion backpack styles – meaning these items are selling faster in the most recent 3 month time period than they did last year.
Sure I’ll still tap into my handbag collection for other occasions, but for my commute and travel, I’m now hooked on the backpack. The industry needs to give consumers a reason to buy something new before the category can see bigger and better growth. This includes brands and retailers focusing on the features and benefits that busy consumers value.
Source: The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service, 3 months ending February 2017 – Fashion and Everyday/Lifestyle Backpacks; Better, Bridge, and Designer brand classifications
This year will be one full of change for fashion at retail – some is overdue, some is driven, but all of it is necessary. The days of the consumer following trends have faded. Consumers are now creating their own looks, seeking apparel, footwear, and accessories that fit into their lifestyle, not the other way around.
Active will enter its second generation in 2017. Active apparel companies will transform their product to be less focused on performance and more focused on lifestyle. At the same time, lifestyle brands will try to become more active-oriented.
Footwear fusion will be the key. The hybrid approach to activewear will carry over to footwear in 2017 as well. The focus for feet will be less about dress and more about innovation and comfort.
Casualization will give pajamas new function. The next generation of casualization will mainstream the use of pajamas as weekend wear. This is not a new concept – college students have been doing this for years – but now it will be embraced by those who didn’t just have an all-nighter cramming for a final.
The little things will matter. Consumers will continue to focus less on mid-range purchases, and more on big and small spends. It’s the latter that will benefit fashion accessories. The affordable splurge on a wristlet or keyfob will maintain its appeal from 2016.
Organic fibers will come to the rescue of activewear, and our noses. The apparel industry will begin to rebel against the negative properties of activewear, such as smell. Look for increased promotion of organic fibers calling synthetic fibers out on their challenges with odor and durability.
Struggle and success will weave together for denim this year. Denim has been on the rebound over the past year, and it will struggle to return to its true glory in 2017. But some brands will fill their pockets and find growth.
There will be an evolution in accessorizing. Technology and innovation have an important place in the world of accessories. The emphasis on carrying a cell phone or tablet in style will be more important than ever. But even the accessories will have to be functional and innovative in order to fit with the current consumer criteria of convenience, need, desire, and price.
Apparel will face a new kind of opponent. The apparel industry will struggle to remain a priority spend, competing for their share of wallet. But it’s not just technology, apparel will go up against intangible purchases too, as younger consumers seek and spend on services and experiences more than ever.