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Bags and Bows: The Ideal Gift

Retailing accessories offers the highest growth among all major retail sectors of Europe last year as per Verdict Research Ltd. According to a study of the U.S. market by NPD Fashionworld, women are purchasing handbags to make a statement as they carry them for days, not just one day a week as in the case of apparel and they look at handbags as an investment for their wardrobe. Increasing retail space and fashion are driving demand but there are significant cost challenges for specialists. Handbags, belts and caps are being hailed as the saviors of the industry.

Nearly half of the money spent on accessories in the US goes in handbags and matching accessories, while one-fifth goes in jewellery and watches. An important element working in favor of bags is the price sensitivity that is less than clothing, making it a stable option for retailers.

Designer handbag sales have spiked nearly 20 % since 2003 to an estimated US$ 6.5 billion last year, according to Accessories Magazine. Further, women buy twice as many bags today as they did just five years ago, according to Coach Inc., a leading American marketer of fine accessories and gifts in leather. The industry attributes the increase to women using handbags in greater experimentation with wardrobes and societys interest in upgrading everything from their coffee to their fashion accessories.

Ownership of handbags is inextricably correlated with age, with younger women owning fewer and older women owning more. Four in ten women aged 55 and over own seven or more handbags, driving their average handbag ownership to seven bags, the highest of all age segments. Three in four women have a favorite handbag that they use most of the time. As women age, they tend to use one primary handbag and see it as functional rather than fashionable. The older a woman gets, the more stuff she accumulates in her handbag.

Sales of bags rose by 10 % last year, which was five times the rate of rest of the business. Verdict Research found that while women dont want to pay hundreds of Euros for an outfit they only wear a few times a year, they are happy to pay the same amount for an accessory they will use more often. Many women today are not going to spend on a daily or even a weekly basis just so they can match their outfits.

Bags by the likes of fashion houses Chloe, Hermes, Mulberry and Balenciaga have been extremely popular in the ongoing year, prompting shoppers to buy other accessories like caps, scarves, gloves and belts as well. A white Muse Yves St Laurent bag has proven particularly popular in Brown Thomas, one of the leading lifestyle stores of Ireland offering the worlds most exclusive designer collections.

Handbags Galore...

The variety of unique handbag and purse designs keeps getting bigger, better and more innovative all the time, but as with every kind of fashion accessory, interesting trends emerge with every new season. A strong upcoming trend is leather sling hipster handbags with elegantly embossed initials or a name. Soft leather is a wonderful fabric for handbags because its durable, always very stylish, and it goes with everything. Sling handbags are very comfortable to carry, and perfect either for business or as a casual accessory.

Cloth purses are casual fashion items; colorful fabrics and quirky patterns are the strongest trend. Also fashionable is the clever and practical reversible cloth purse. One can turn the purse inside out to reveal the alternative fabric pattern, so as to have two purses in one. Initialed purses are a fashion accessory with a personal touch and make wonderful gifts. Anybody can have just about any kind of purse printed, embroidered or embossed with a single initial or set of two or three initials in a wide variety of styles. As for handbags, leather is predicted to become a big trend in the upcoming season. Clutch purses and handbags have an elegant streamlined look, but they are the perfect size to carry all those little necessities. The big look for clutch purses and clutch handbags in the coming year will be all glamour. Shiny metallic gold, silver, bronze and platinum shades will be the strong colors of the season, in soft suede leather.

Despite its $ 995 price tag, five bags placed on the shelves in an up market store were bought within an hour.

Besides the designer brands, there are also several mid-priced retailers like JCPenney, Gap, American Eagle, Ann Taylor, Bebe Stores, Bloomingsdale and Chicos that have made their entry in the handbag market of the US. Accessories are having their heydays in department stores. Macys East has nearly doubled the space for handbags on the main floor of its Herald Square flagship in New York, Bergdorf Goodman has expanded its square footage for accessories by showing them on the main floor and on the fifth floor in the contemporary area, and Bloomingdales is expanding accessories departments in most of its floors.

So bags are popular. But when it comes to giving them as gifts, the appropriate way would be to gift wrap it. The most common type of gift-wrapping is with decorated paper, whether the solid sheet variety or tissue, or as is becoming more popular, a combination of the two. The former is preferred if there is a fair bit of handling required, like travel. The ideal solution is to wrap it a second time with the tough and hardy brown paper, protecting the inside. Tissue paper is risky to use, as it is prone to tearing at the slightest of touches. However, white tissue is the classic liner for your gift boxes. This low cost tissue is available in 480 sheet reams.

What sets the gift apart is a neat little bow on the wrapping. Most large stores have a variety of bows as the perfect accent for any gift. They could be star bows, pull bows, and pom pom bows, amongst many others. The star bow is pre-made with peel and stick backing and matches many standard gift-wraps. Moire Pom Pom bows are ready to pull out bow hanks. Match it with the gift-wrap paper and it will compliment any gift box. It is adhesive backed, so take care not to soil your fingers. Another type is the stretch loop, a neat complement for gift-wrapping the boxes. This elastic metallic ribbon is pre-tied so it slips easily onto your gift box. If short of time, here is a tip. Use one side of a pair of scissors to scrape plain ribbons as though you were peeling potatoes. The ribbon will end up nice and curly and, with a little imagination and cello tape, a perfect bow can be made.

Bows might just be the new black - or might they be the new padlock Many new handbags in the fall collections of various designers utilize bows. Valentino's Floral Appliqu Clutch ($1,080) may have black leather flowers, but it also has a huge bow on the strap. Be & D's Python Clutch ($3,200) is nothing more than a huge, red bow, though at least you get the sense that there is a bag behind it, unlike the Yves St Laurent Metallic Bow Bag ($845), which looks like a bow with a strap. The question is do you like or dislike it It's pretty clear that the designers think we want more bows in our wardrobes, but it might be a better idea to stay with the smaller, cuter bows in the future, rather than dressing everyone up like Barbie, but without a sense of proportion.