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Women’s Accessories: A whole new market of opportunity for retailers

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Radhika Mishra is spoilt for choice. Literally. She has a tough time deciding which bag would go well with her outfit each time she opens her wardrobe as her collection includes more than 25 handbags in a variety of colours, prints and styles. Once a bag has been decided upon, she faces the dilemma of pairing a scarf with her plain white shirt, to help with a little glamour for a dinner party post work. She adds a funky neckpiece and a chunky bracelet for good measure.

Such is the life of a woman today whose wardrobe is filled with excessive accessories – from fashion jewellery and bags, to belts and scarves. Whether it is demand that has led to supply or supply that has given way to such intense demand is a question akin to solving the chicken and egg mystery. But whatever the case, the increasing demand for accessories has all brands scrambling to provide women with what they want – anything from belts that come with crystals studded on them to scarves that reflect modern art.

A few years ago, accessories were something which were reserved only for a wealthy, but today, walk into any department store and the accessory section is filled to the brim with outfit add-ons that appeal to those with jazzy tastes, to those who are looking at something subtle, and of course at a price that is pocket friendly.

Bagging the Accessory Crown

Setting the context of the story, Dilip Kapur, the Founder of India’s most coveted brand for leather bags and accessories – Hidesign says, “Women’s accessories retail has undergone a sea change in terms of format and consumer-buying behaviour. Along with the increase in disposable income, brand awareness, development and modernisation of infrastructure has played a major role in defining the changing dynamics of retail spaces.”

Dilip Kapur attributes the growth to the emergence of Tier I and II cities, women seeking financial independence which invariably has an impact on her spending potential, growth in retail spaces across high streets, penetration and acceptance of online shopping and most importantly, greater access to affordable fashion across different price points. Keeping these factors in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising to note that Hidesign’s leather goods business is around Rs 160 crore.

On the brand’s current reach across the country, Dilip Kapur says, “75-80 percent of our customer base comprises of Indians and we have 84 stores in India; we are getting another 16 stores up soon.”

Hidesign has an extremely strong presence online as well. Highlighting an interesting observation on regional differences affecting shopping patterns, Dilip Kapur states, “Delhi region is the largest and accounts for higher sales and the south cities tend to have higher sales of work bags.”

Vicky Ahuja, Director Sales, Baggit points out that the requirement for accessories is driven alongside the apparel industry. “Accessories are no longer viewed as optional wear. Women are naturally intuitive about what they wear, but now they are more mindful about how they pair accessories with their entire ensemble,” he explains.

Baggit, started with one store in Mumbai and currently retails in 100+ cities through 50+ exclusive Baggit stores and is present in 1,000+ counters pan India. The current turnover of the brand stands at Rs 150 crore+.

Talking numbers, Rajat Asawa, Chief Executive Officer, Shaka says, “The accessories market in India is sized at approximately Rs 25,000 crore and has been growing steadily at a rate of 20 percent per annum. India is still at a very nascent stage as far as branded accessories are concerned, and a majority of the stakes are still held by unbranded products coming out of the unorganised retail sector.”

Shaka offers an impressive collection of luxury handbags with the USP being that of minimalist designs and highly organised interiors.

Talking specifically of jewellery, Jacqueline Kapur, Founder and CEO, Ayesha Fashion Pvt. Ltd. – which has been wowing customers with its brand Ayesha – says, “When we entered the scene in 2009, the urban Indian woman was not really accessorising her everyday outfit. If she wore jewellery at all, it was traditional gold jewellery. The last 10 years have brought a dramatic change with globalisation of entertainment through television shows, online video content, and social media.”

Today, in spite of a decade gone by, Ayesha is still the only homegrown brand which covers the whole spectrum of fashion accessories for girls, boys and kids with a very strong online and offline presence. This Pondicherry-based brand has managed to spread its footprint across the country with more than 20 EBOs and over 70 MBOs. They wrapped up the last financial year with approximately Rs 12 crore and this year they estimate a further growth of 20 percent.

Sharing an interesting perspective on the growth of the accessories market across different cities and towns within India, Parimal Mehhta, Co-Founder, Horra says, “I see significant growth in both Tier I and II cities. Tier I cities, though competition is tough, will see an influx of international brands. Tier II cities, on the other hand, will witness growth because of the consumer shift from unbranded to branded accessories, mainly because of the increase of women’s disposable income.”

Starting its journey in 2016 with watches, Horra today has expanded to include bags and other accessories as part of its portfolio. With a presence across India through their online and offline channels, the brand is working towards being a one-stop-shop for lifestyle shopping, carrying products like club wear and even bespoke shoes.

Stealing The Show: Shawls & Stoles

Another accessories which have become a staple in women’s wardrobes are shawls and scarves. Paras Mahajan, CEO, Red Riding – a brand that specialises in shawls and scarves – says that the market for shawls has grown from necessity to being an important fashion accessory. He states, “We are trying to revamp our product according to the demand of our customers which comprises youth. Not long ago, shawls were associated with a piece of cloth that helped keep the body warm but now the perspective has undergone a sea of change. We have shawls that come as wraps, poncho, button-up and tubes. Each has a different feature and can be worn to enhance to overall look of the apparel worn with it.”

An experimentation with fabrics has contributed to the growth of shawls. Explaining the how of it, he says, “Majorly we prefer wool but to make the product cheaper, we also use acrylic (which is fake wool). We use wool spun, wool blends, cashmere, modal, fur and jacquard as well.”

Priyanka Ahuja, Fashion Consultant, Ahujasons adds, “Regardless of latest trends, shawls are always in fashion. This luxurious fashion piece is always at the top of the accessory list as it shows the roots of Indian culture and tradition. If we talk about metro cities, then high fashion stoles have always been the favorable choice whereas in non-metro cities people are more appreciative of traditional handwork and fine embroidery. Lucknow and Kanpur remain untapped market for shawls. I believe Pashmina shawls are well-suited for the elegant styles of these two cities, but they haven’t as yet received the right exposure here.”

Amit Jain, Managing Director, Shingora points out on how shawls have always occupied the place of an intricate wedding wear accessory. He says, “Various stylised, trendy and fashionable shawls, weaved with traditional concepts of art and history – Madhubani paintings or Kullu embroidery – hold on to the ethnic value of shawls but when a contemporary touch is thrown in in the form of colours or designs or patterns, they become extremely stylish as well as an exclusive fashion product.”

Shingora is all set to expand to offer dupattas with zari borders, silk blends, a touch of Swarovski, embroideries and even the ombre-dye technique.

Demand Drivers

A rise in the population of working women, who are confident as well as financially independent is one of the main factors of growth in women’s fashion accessories. Apart from this, a tremendous exposure to international trends in India has furthered this trend of stylising clothes with accessories.

Priyanka Ahuja says, “With economic liberalisation several global brands have set base in India with multiple outlets across cities and Indians are now privy to global fashion trends. This increased exposure has consequently led to an increase in demand for these products – whether through the global brands or domestic brands. This is supported by the fact that India is one of the most rapidly developing economies in the world.”

Highlighting the growth drivers on the supply side, she further points out the contribution of corporatisation in retail, “With the entry of several foreign brands and large chains in the fashion accessory industry has made the market more organised, leading to higher standards of distribution and marketing and improved levels of quality, product designs and services offered. And it’s not just international brands. With a growth in demand, several domestic brands have been able to gain a strong share in the market, with their ability to off er high-quality good as at reasonable prices viz a viz international brands.”

On the growth drivers for fashion jewellery, Jacqueline Kapur highlights an interesting observation. “Women are consuming a wider variety of media from all parts of the world today. There are putting together outfits from Pinterest boards, taking inspiration from international pop artists or fashion bloggers and shopping these looks online,” she explains.

The E-Commerce Revolution

The rise in demand for accessories can also be credited to the efforts being put in via the online channels both by the brands and e-commerce portals like Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra etc. Accentuating their role, Priyanka Ahuja says, “Big brands and retailers operate through multi-channel or Omnichannel structures, making the products much more standardised and easily available. Also, the emergence of new fashion websites has led to a massive expansion and diversification in the accessories market. Accessories such as bags, wallets, belts, scarves, hats, glasses etc. are heavily promoted on such online channels and come with the enhanced advantage for ease of purchase.”

According to her, the online channel is going to lead the way for further growth of this segment. “The real push and growth will come from the online world. The accessories market is growing in double digits and this is creating space for multiple brands. We are witnessing intense competition. With the ease and more and more acceptance of online shopping and payments along with the availability of the products in more and more cities, the industry will gain a substantial push in the coming years.”

Abhinav Kumar, CEO and Director, Sugarush, adds, “E-commerce platforms play a major role in pushing forward the women accessories market in India. This is mainly because, online shopping is convenient and often leads to impulsive buys.”

Reiterating on the push being received from the online channel, Indranath Sengupta, Head of Retail, Kompanero says, “Online retail plays a major role in giving a push to women accessories in India. Higher disposable incomes and increased exposure due to various e-commerce platforms have led to the increase in demand for more and more accessories.”

Tracking Trends & Top Performers

Citing the top three performers from the brand portfolio, Dilip Kapur points out that work bags occupy the top slot followed by wallets, evening bags, sunglasses, belts and then shoes. “Bum bags or fanny bags, convertible travel bags and backpacks are accessories that are trending,” he says.

Unlike in apparels, the culture of following seasons for accessories is not very strong. Where fashion bags would have prints that depict the hues of summer and winter and also have some special range during monsoons, there is no dedicated eff ort to launch ‘season’ wise collection.

Dilip Kapur aptly explains this saying, “Seasons make sense for apparel. You don’t see seasons aff ecting accessories overall. We feel the customer wants to see something new every month.”

Sharing his views on whether or not launching collection per season makes sense for accessories, Rajat Asawa says, “A customer today is spoiled by choices given and has a very short memory. Since there are so many options available, she/he tends to get bored quickly. Brands therefore need to be on their toes to keep offering exciting new designs to the customer. I believe this trend of collections based on seasons is slowly catching up in the accessories market as well.”

On the styles that are in trend, Parimal Mehhta reveals, “This year, we have seen bags in all shapes (oversized totes to micro bags) and sizes (circular and irregularly shaped). There was also heavy experimentation with materials (transparent material) and textures (lots of furs and over the top fringes). It was also good to see prints, prints, prints!”

Jacqueline Kapur sees a good movement for the Boho-look when it comes to jewellery. This look has an amalgamation of Indian and Western elements. She says, “Tassel earrings are an important piece of the Boho puzzle, and they are selling like hotcakes. In the pure Western segment, multi-layered necklaces with small pendants are doing well and in earrings hoops in all sizes are their go-to picks. The predominant trend in the western segment goes to minimalist designs. Thin chains with tiny pendants have emerged as top sellers this season for the daywear fashion. The party look of autumn-winter 2018 is dominated by chunky metal earrings, which are more oversized than ever. Even in the ethnic section, the bigger the jhumkis, the better they sell.”

Keeping in mind the onset of festive season, the demand for all that is bling is on a rise.

Reiterating this, Apeksha Patel, Founder, E2o Fashion says, “Statement earrings and layered necklaces are adding flavor to ethnic wear along with waist-cinching belts with buckles. Tiny 90s-style sunglasses are the new sensation. Silk scarves are being featured heavily as an accentuator on flowing dresses, bag straps, headwear, belts and even as unconventional ways to tie shoes. Chunkier cuff bracelets and big bangles with striking and sculptural designs are stacking up the arm and making a statement this season. Designs featuring autumnal leaves in brooches, necklaces and earring are adding a contemporary feel to the traditional attires.”

On the shoes and caps, she further adds, “Transparent shoes and bags are making a true fashion essential. Dramatic hats and sailor caps are something to watch out for as well. Round accessories are making a lasting impression be it sling bags, hoop or round earrings and chain neckpieces with bigger and bolder look giving an enigmatic appeal in sleek and elegant form.”

Highlighting on the trends that customers can expect to see in terms of shawls and scarves, Paras Mahajan says, “Last year we introduced a collection with fur as our focal point. This year plan to launch wool with decoration of sequence and stars and we are also making some style so that the customer can relate those with the accessories as well.”

Priyanka Ahuja adds, “Though traditional embroideries are breathtaking they might not always complement today’s outfits. We have taken ancient ideas and portrayed them with a modern twist. We have introduced a kind of Renaissance to shawls by combining techniques like hand painting, hand cut jaali and tanjore to pashmina which never go out of fashion, suiting all age groups.”

On the choice for fabrics, she adds, “We use high-end fabrics such as Pashmina and blends, Merino wool and blends. Blends are of mainly silk or cotton (all organic fibres). Pashmina’s are one of the most popular fabrics that been used in the high-end shawls and also popular among the customers. In pashminas, Ikat and moonlight shawls and stoles are very popular among customers. These enhance the overall look of outfits making them more royal and elegant.”

Talking further on trends, Deep Agarwal, Director, Knot Me says, “Plain dye stoles are quite popular as they match with the maximum outfits. We have noticed that stoles that are good in quality and come at an economical price tend to sell well.”

Her shall be launching shrugs and launch jewellery scarves to offer a wider range to their customers.

Shopping Patterns, Growth & Sales

Where premium accessory brands meet loyal customers perhaps twice or thrice in a year, the pocket friendly and high on fashion accessory brands experience repeat purchases much more often.

Elaborating on the shopping patterns of a typical Hidesign customer, Dilip Kapur says, “Hidesign loyal customers repeat purchase every 4 to 6 months. Some of the purchases are for gifting especially at airports. Also there are a wide range of products that keep customers returning to Hidesign such as briefcases, city bags, back packs, wallets, belts, sunglasses, shoes, travel bags etc.”

“With the largest segment of Hidesign customer is from 25-35 and second largest below 25, the main space for us to reach out to them has been digital. All our stores are fitted with TVs that play videos on the brand and new collections. Hidesign as a brand is full of stories because we make our own products and communication through videos helps us in connecting to our customers. It is often these stories and unique design and product philosophy that brings our customers back,” he adds.

According to him, an online presence invariably does give a push to offline sales too. “Online sales tend to be price sensitive and often allow first time customers to experience Hidesign.”

Sharing Hidesign’s sale from online channels, he says, “At present online contributes about 20 percent of our revenue. We ensure all collection launches are available in our physical as well as online stores, and in case a product is sold out online, we procure it from stores. Overall, we grew a little slower last year than expected both due to demonetisation and GST. We grew about 15 to 16 percent. This year we hope to grow above 20 percent. This year, Hidesign will be entering new airports that are now privatized for retail. Internationally, we are exploring new spaces such as Sarajevo, Indonesia and solidifying our presence in Kenya and Portugal and Spain. We are present in 24 countries and our products are available in over 2,000 stores worldwide.”

Picking up on the Potentials

According to Dilip Kapur, travel and crossover products are interesting trends to watch out for.

“We recently launched a new collection called ‘Pondicherry Paris Collection for Hidesign’, which has a range of chic products that make travel a pleasure like soft shawls, big sunglasses and range of pouches to organise travel needs. Most of these products are unisex, with clean refined lines and details.”

He further adds, “We also launched a collection ‘HidesignxKalki’ in collaboration with Kalki Koechlin recently which comprises of fun everyday backpacks to chic party bags. In terms of shapes, the collection has a wide range from day to night bags, which highlight Kalki’s sometimes relaxed, thoughtful lifestyle to statement pieces for her dazzling nights out.”

Sharing his take on the trends, Vicky Ahuja shares, “Fashion accessories have become an expression of the attitude. Recent trends include clutches, both for formal wear and a casual event, from glitzy, box style, metal-framed envelope style clutches to a handy range for carrying important belongings such as phones and cards. Then we have seen sleek cuts and textured saddle bags, functional and official backpacks, belt bags and handbags: whether in transit at the airport, shopping, office or at a party. The wide range of patterns along with vibrant hues of colours, both solid and metallic variations are the key trends being followed currently.”

Moving away from talking about colours and styles, Indranath Sengupta talks about how the ‘sustainability’ feature is driving demand. He explains, “Right now, the new entrants in the market are all about sustainability. Even the established brands are branching out to offer customers products that are sustainable, vegan, made from natural/ organic products, which do not harm the environment etc. We believe in this principle and our bags are made from naturally tanned leather.”

Positioning at Stores

The accessory category has grown to have a special section for itself in any department store though as compared to apparels, the space is still relatively less. Perhaps in years to follow, we shall see a dedicated floor for accessories keeping in mind the increase in demand for them.

Sharing his point of view on the current dynamics with regards to space, Vicky Ahuja says, “While the space for women’s clothing has now become segregated across floors into western and Indian at multi-retail outlets, the accessories placed around are mostly complimentary to the style portrayed on the floor. The space has increased from just a shelf shared by multiple brands to an entire wall. The store layout, placement and shelf design along with the visual look and feel of it, play a huge impact on the sale of accessories. Most of the larger retailers have gotten this down to a science and they understand the influence a well-placed accessory can have on a consumer’s buying impulses.”

Where fashion jewellery, belts and scarves are making a way into occupying the shopping spend of a woman, bags still hold the number one position hence it implies that the shelf space in MBOs is partial towards bags.

Jacqueline Kapur says, “The space share allotted to accessories in the women’s apparel section in MBOs is dominated by bags; probably around 15-20 percent of the women’s section. 8-10 percent of the space is dedicated to accessories like fashion jewelry, sunglasses, and watches. Scarves, hats, headbands, bows, socks are relegated to even lesser space.”


Citing a roadblock that if one can overcome would invariably boost the market, Rajat Asawa says, “One challenge that I think we currently face is the differentiation in the availability of finance, just like consumer finance has picked up on the consumer durables sector, the accessories finance segment needs a whole lot of improvement, zero cost financing on credit cards will go a long distance in increasing consumption. Aspiration is not the problem we face, accessibility is.”

Dilip Kapur concludes, “I would say that future looks extremely positive with the largest population between 15-35 years we are going to have more women entering the work industry. With more women getting to work and getting professional degrees, smart accessories at work and travel are only going to increase.”

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