Business experts predict that overall holiday sales will run anyplace from poor to miserable this year, not exactly good news for fashion retailers. However, one bright light in the otherwise dim package is accessories, which are driving sales at practically all price levels.
Accessories have become so important; they are the main display lead in department stores and boutiques. Firms are expanding their accessories’ offerings, zeroing in on top sellers, like soft accessories and jewelry.
Ron Frasch, president and chief merchandising officer at Saks Fifth Avenue, says that there is greater consumer interest in gift-giving accessories, like small leather goods. Marc by Marc Jacobs and Tory Burch handbags are very popular, and top jewelry lines from Cartier and Chopard are likewise selling well.
Notwithstanding these pockets of interest, Saks is still discounting in a major way, even in the accessories field. Within the last week, for instance, the store was offering $1,000 designer handbags on sale for $100-$200. Not a good sign.
But accessories at an affordable price level? They can be winners.
- APPRECIATE CHOPARD, from its rich diamond elegance to its clean, simple lines. You can mimic the look with a stunning CZ circle necklace, a major theme with Chopard. Or, you might consider a beautiful clear Austrian crystal cuff bracelet, again centered on a luxurious Chopard-inspired diamond look.
Unlike many previous recessions, when the luxury sector tended to hold up well, this financial problem is hitting the moneyed sector hard. Revenues at major luxury retailers, like Saks Fifth Avenue, are being slapped down by sluggish sales.
Retailers and manufacturers are running hard to come up with ideas to ease the red ink environment.
Frasch expects products that are not of the moment i.e., products that are investment pieces, to hold up well, like jewelry. Jewelry spanning what he called multiple price levels, like David Yurman and Judith Ripka pieces, are “hanging tough.”
- MULTIPLE PRICE POINTS PROMOTE SALES: you can capitalize on the same idea by choosing jewelry that bridges several price levels. Consider a spiraling silver-plated cuff bracelet and then visit the southwest for a Zuni inspired cuff bracelet. They are both very trendy and inexpensive. For a higher priced promotional item to counter-balance the two, try a large CZ pageant crown, great for school affairs, New Year’s Eve, and more!
J. Crew is expanding its accessories, expecting sales to pay off in the fourth quarter. Costume jewelry displays are up front in all their stores. Many retailers are also adding special gift-giving items to spice up their sales action.
At Henri Bendel, president Ed Bucciarelli said the store is increasing its assortment of accessories and upping its accessories “shops” by about 30 percent this Christmas because they are becoming so important.. He also wants customers to see displays of accessories as soon as they enter the store. “The strength of the holidays is around accessories,” he declared.
Breaking back prices at the manufacturing level is also important this year. Brian Bolke, owner of a Dallas boutique, said he is working with sources to develop earrings in gold or precious metals for under $250. Others are doing the same thing with diamonds. Just about everyone is working harder to top value at lower prices for their customers.
- ZERO IN ON HOT BOUTIQUE ITEMS: You can mimic the earrings being commissioned by Bolke with handsome diamond-look earrings. Choose a sedate pair of diamond studs or go for large pear-shaped CZ earrings. Particularly fitting to the holiday story is a gift collection of three pair of CZ earrings in a clear Lucite box, What a great gift!
A number of fashion brands are expanding lower cost products in order to increase revenue this Christmas. Several, like Emilio Pucci, have branched out into eyewear; others, like Badgley Mischka, have introduced designer watches. Donna Karan has also revitalized her handbag collection.
Michael Kors, the super high-class couturier designer, now makes most of his money from mid-tier accessories. In fact, accessories now account for 75 percent of the firm’s volume.
- DESIGNER-INSPIRED EYEWEAR HOT ON CHRISTMAS LISTS: Dark, rectangular sunglasses in trendy bronze, pewter, or gunmetal frames give an exclusive designer look for a fraction of the price. Oversized sunglasses with dark lenses set into a handsome wrap design give an expensive French Riviera impression without the high price!
Retailers say that woven handbags are big. And, small eyeglass holders are popular. Shiny leather clutches from Tory Burch are selling well. Shimmery gold cuffs from Judith Ripka are hot. In a bad economy, not everything is off.
Holding on to market importance are items that have an artisan look to them and pieces that are one-of-a-kind in appearance. In other words, expensive-looking items. Think Cartier-style jewelry with plenty of gemstones, like the firm’s Patiala necklace. It would be incredibly glitzy, except that it’s real.
Also from the famed jeweler: A large-faced round watch with a pink bezel, black Roman numerals, and a white face set off by a simple black leather band. This is a relatively unadorned Cartier specialty, but rich and elegant. Other designs feature the same clean cut designs only with diamond bezels. Still not too glitzy, the watches offer class but, at the same time, come more in line with the present Christmas frugality mood (if anything from Cartier could be considered frugal).
MIMIC THE CARTIER INITIATIVE: Handsome, minimalist, rich. That’s the idea. Use the formula for finding gifts with fabulous price-to-value ratio. Sparkling rhinestone pins are among the top gift-giving items this year, in sure-to-sell nature themes like swans and butterflies. For a religious note, look at the beautiful rhinestone cross brooches. A charming secular gift is an Austrian crystal flower pin, very fine jeweler-looking, but easy on the pocketbook.