Many handbag retailers have been experiencing weak sales recently as consumers refuse to respond to “call-to-action” or take initiative to purchase new bags. So, why are handbag lovers unwilling to bite at even new styles? The problem is the overwhelming sense of ” same old, same old” in the seemingly “new” bags. In recent seasons, brands have experienced success by releasing the same silhouettes in different colors and keeping a consistent look, but this is no longer a working tactic. Consumers have grown weary of the monotony seen in recent bag trends and are no longer impressed with the status quo.
This dissatisfaction reflects a new direction in what consumers value in accessories. A few years ago, shoppers would stand in line forever to snag the latest “it” bag, shoe, or apparel just because of the hype, but the desire for the latest and greatest has significantly declined. As described by Robert Durke in a WWD article, there is now a sense of “consumer ennui towards fashion” as people seek practicality above a mark of status:
“Handbags have been a hot, call-to-action-type purchase, but now customers are looking for versatility and it’s resulted in very subtle trend and branding, which makes it less urgent to update your bag. What happens when retail is shaky is that customers go back and shop their closet and see what they have.”
With the shift towards the unidentifiable, “anti-it” bags , hot and popular handbags are not generating the same type of profit for companies anymore. Consumers are not only looking for more unique styles, but also longevity with the bags they already own.
The Technology Drawback
Even if shoppers do become intrigued by new styles, they often feel bored by new bags quickly because of overexposure and oversaturation. The internet and social media play huge factors in this boredom. Companies engage in huge media campaigns to create hype around their new accessories. Furthermore, lots of people showcase the same accessories on social media, and erode the novelty and freshness of new pieces. As quoted by Burke,
“Customers are looking at bags prior to delivery and are tired of it [by the time it gets to the store]. It tarnishes in some ways the impulse of a bag purchase. Bags had a lot more longevity before the Internet. If you think of the Fendi Baguette bag, it had a very long run. The shelf life for bags today is extremely short because of their exposure online.”
I have personally experienced this phenomenon many times before. Instagram alone can visually satiate the appetite of hundreds of thousands at a single glance. Through instagram, we share one another’s experiences so vicariously, that it sometimes feels as though we have that “been there, done that” feeling without ever having made it to the store to actually see the bag. Recently on my search to find the perfect Boy Bag, I went back and forth about purchasing the highly sought after purple iridescent Boy from the Cruise collection. Although I can’t deny its beauty, I had seen it so many times and didn’t feel as compelled to purchase it in the end.
The question remains, how can companies respark interest?
The answer is newness, but this is easier said than done. Simply put, consumers are looking for something different, innovative, and personally stirring. One way to achieve this is with bag accessories, which allow consumers to add unique aspects to their bag without detracting from its true look and practical purpose. Fendi is a brand that has truly cornered this market. From brightly colored, novelty bags, to interchangeable straps, and giant, furry bag charms, the consumer has endless options to customize a bag to their preference. However, all the new possibilities to change the look for just one bag keep consumers complacent with their collection. While the sales for bag accessories may rise, consumers still may not have the urge to update and buy a whole, new bag.
In order to generate more handbag sales, companies will need to find ways to extend the shelf life and overall appeal of their bags. This may mean focusing on design for some brands or maintaining exclusivity with less flashy advertisement for others. Even with action from the brands themselves, social media from mass consumers can still propel some bags into overexposed territory. With our media obsessed world, overexposure and saturation might always be a challenge. However, overcoming weak sales and obstacles will require companies first and foremost to listen to the consumer desire for real change.
Where do you stand – has “bag fatigue” set in for you at some point? or are you still loving the latest trends? Let’s take the debate to the conversation here on BopTalk.