Fashion Accessories Grow 4% in Apparent Turnaround; Belt Bags Key

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By Lauren Parker, Contributing Editor

Cue the fashion accessories rebound! 

According to global insights experts The NPD Group, accessories are turning around their declines we’ve seen over the past two years. U.S. dollar sales of fashion accessories grew 4% the first 10 months of 2018, with non-traditional silhouettes like belt bags driving growth. 

This about-face signals a shift in consumer preferences and priority, notably driven by functionality. Historically key bag categories like totes, shoppers and messenger bags have yielded to double-digit gains in hands-free backpacks and fanny/waist packs, plus chic and functional luggagefor the growing traveler. 

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Interestingly, while the fanny pack category represents just 1% of fashion accessories sales, it’s generating nearly a quarter of the industry’s growth. Growth at the premium channel is the reason, and designers have had no shortage of creative ideas when it comes to sending chic belt bags down their runways. Once considered just a sporty item, designers have mixed in dressier materials as well as upscale leathers and logos. Additionally, these are often worn across the chest instead of just around the waist, offering both styling and functional versatility. There’s also opportunity for belt bag multiples, although this might be more runway than reality.  

The mid-tier/value channel is also growing the category for both men and women. Further demonstrating growth across price points, both moderate and designer brands contributed to growth in the fanny/waist pack category.

“Changing consumer behaviors, such as travel and the pursuit of convenience, are changing the way consumers everywhere think about the accessories they need,” said Beth Goldstein, fashion footwear and accessories industry analyst, The NPD Group. “New lifestyle needs will make categories like luggage, backpacks and even fanny packs popular items on shopping and wish-lists during the 2018 holiday season.”

All About Providing Solutions

“Fashion is still important to consumers, but consumers are also asking what the product can do for them – a question many upstart brands, like Lo & Sons and Dagne Dover, are doing a good job of answering,” said Goldstein. “Brands who guide the consumer, offering solutions to problems they didn’t know they had, will be the fashion accessories leaders.”     

Backpacks are also reaping the rewards of this. Once considered a student item, backpacks have transcended the “back-to-school-only purchase,” with adults eager adopting the category. In fact, backpacks continue to replace more traditional “work” bags, especially in cities where mass transit drives a need for hands-free solutions. While everyday backpacks grew across both male and female wearers, fashion backpacks drove the majority of the growth among females.

These less traditional categories aren’t isolated in their growth, either. New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco are the top three growth regions for backpacks and fanny/waist packs, but many small and large markets across the country are experiencing growth. 

Noor Nanda