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Handbag Sales Are Increasing in the U.S., But Less So Among Millennials

A new study by The NPD Group reveals how handbag shopping differs among generations.
Photo: Imaxtree

Photo: Imaxtree

The NPD Group, in partnership with Stylitics, released a study on how handbag shopping differs between generations of women over 18 years of age. Although handbag sales have increased in the U.S. by 5 percent since 2014, totaling $11.5 billion in 2015, the growth is mostly thanks to baby boomers who take the "treat yourself" mantra very seriously (must be all that discretionary income). Meanwhile, women between 18 and 34 years old (millennials! hi!) have only increased handbag sales by a mere 2 percent.

The difference among the generations comes down to shopping habits. The handbag buying process among millennials is what the NPD Group likens to buying a car, rather than, say, a brand new shirt. In fact, the task starts more than a month in advance among 41% of millennials, and 61% of them start browsing for choices online first before pulling the plug on a final purchase. "The handbag has become a signature item, and retailers need to take advantage of selling it in-store, up-front and center, as their own signature,"says Marshal Cohen, The NPD Group's chief industry analyst.

The new study also revealed that millennials are less concerned about brand names when it comes to a new handbag. Three out of four women report that their top priorities have more to do with quality and style, which presents ample opportunities for new and emerging labels. This finding, however, isn't all too surprising — look at how big Mansur Gavriel and its bucket bags have gotten since they launched only four years ago.

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