How serious do women et when it comes to buying a new bag? Very. At least according to researcher NP Group, which said this month that the Millennial customer treats a handbag purchase as a multi-step process, and 41% start thinking about their most recent handbag purchase more than a month in advance.
Basically, it seems, if they’re investing money in something that’s going to be attached to their arm for a long time, they want it to be just right and to really reflect their needs/taste/personality.
The New Handbag Customer Revealed 2016 study, created in partnership with Stylitics. examines the closets and mindset of Millennial women to understand their needs, aspirations, inspirations, and the triggers that make them purchase.
The $11.5bn question
Now that may seem incredibly shallow, but when you think that women 18 and over spent a total of $11.5bn on handbags in the US alone last year, there are some questions that it will clearly help brand owners to have answered.
The reason NPD has focused on Millennials (apart from the modern world’s total obsession with this particular age group) is that handbag-buyings seems to be an activity most important to older consumers. Maybe that’s always been the case (we’re not told) but brand owners have the right to be edgy about any activity that excludes younger adults. If their shopping behaviour continues in the the years ahead, it could mean the branded handbag apathy that has beset labels like Prada of late getting worse.
It could also mean problems for brands like Michael Kors whose bags have hit saturation point. But it should be good news for labels like Burberry, which is refining its bag strategy and focusing on winers like the patchwork and banner bags and the rucksack ahead of some big new launches;mand for Kate Spade where a quirky, more individual approach seems to be paying dividends.
So, what does the report tell us? While handbag spend grew 5% year-on-year in 2015, compared to 2014, the rise was fuelled by my generation, Baby Boomers, many of whom have greater discretionary incomes. Sales among Millennials age 18-34 inched forward by only 2%, and that small rise was led by a double-digit surge among older members of the generation, which means that spend in the lower age range was even worse and could even have fallen.
“The Millennial customer is shopping for handbags very differently than other generations,” said Rohan Deuskar, CEO & co-founder of Stylitics, a fashion tech and insights company. “For example, this customer starts with specific product attributes, not brand, when looking for her next handbag, and invests more time and research in her purchase than brands and retailers realise. These findings have been eye-opening for handbag sellers, and are having an immediate impact on their marketing, merchandising, and product development strategies.”
Of course, what this sounds like more than anything is that the Millennial shopper is a lot more sensible than the rest of us! She’s buying her handbag like it was a family car, thinking about what really matters and taking her time.
It also means brand owners have to up their game to stay ahead and leaves the door open for newcomers in an industry where well-established brands have a distinct advantage. Perhaps that’s why Mansur Gabriel has done so well in recent years.
NPD/Stylitics said the Millennial handbag customer is increasingly more focused on the details, quality, and uniqueness of her handbags, than the brand itself, across most price points and styles. This makes this customer much more open to trying emerging or lesser-known brands, which has implications for both established brands and newcomers.
The nuanced, highly rational and also highly emotional nature of the handbag purchase journey “poses many opportunities for manufacturers and retailers to capture the attention of the Millennial customer, whether it’s through social media or a hands-on experience,” NPD says.
“With the complex nature of the Millennial handbag purchase journey, combined with the diverse needs of selling the same handbags across a variety of generations, it becomes even more critical to ensure those selling your handbags know all the right reasons behind each generation’s choices,” said Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry analyst. “The handbag has become a signature item, and retailers need to take advantage of selling it in-store, up-front and centre, as their own signature.”