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A quick search of the hashtag #fashionaccessories on Instagram throws up a total of 2.4m recent posts - including everything from jewellery to hair clips and Alice bands, handbags, pairs of sunglasses and small clutch purses suitable for every season, every size and every kind of buyer. While many see the term “fashion accessories” on a voucher or deal site and immediately think of jewellery, the fact is that the industry is far larger and more widespread than that - with fashion accessories defining anything that can be added to an outfit or to a look for an enhanced finish and aesthetic effect.
As a subsection within the wider fashion industry, accessories on their own have successfully permeated many of the world’s largest fashion brands, with designers, high street retailers and independent creators all revelling in the added value which comes from being able to match and upsell a great outfit or clothing garment with accessories to compliment it.
So, what makes fashion accessories so popular? Essentially it all comes down to the way in which they are marketed - with many of the most influential and successful campaigns leaning on the idea of accessories having the power to pull together an outfit; perhaps turning a dress from bland to stylish in a few easy steps, or taking a simple office blouse from day to night seamlessly with the quick addition of a statement necklace or pair of earrings.
When we look at the most popular fashion accessory options and sectors, the ones which jump out are:
While all of these alone boast their own levels of success, what makes them so successful as a whole is the way in which retailers and designers constantly update and tailor their accessory collections to suit different seasons, different trends, and to compliment specific items within their fashion range.
As with most other subsections of the fashion industry, some of the most prominent collections of fashion accessories can be found in department stores and large retailer stores, all of which stock a wide range of different brands and different collections – creating a seamless shopping experience for men and women alike who are looking to compile and create a complete outfit.
One way that this is achieved is through customer experiential features, for example the rise in the use of fitting rooms as an upsell tool – with staff members and employees now trained in using the fitting rooms as a place to not only help sell stock to captured buyers, but also to promote and suggest extra accessories and add-ons which could compliment the look.
Some of the most popular examples of retailers in the fashion accessory industry include:
This list alone proves that the fashion accessory industry is one which is present across all levels of shopping experience, from the most affordable high street stores to those which are famed for their expensive wares and their exclusive packaging solutions – yes, we are talking about the iconic Tiffany & Co little blue box.
So, how does customer experience impact on the way that buyers view a fashion accessory retailer or brand? Does it matter if brands do not have their own shops through which to provide a tailored customer service?
This is where the difference between department stores and single brand stores becomes important, with some of the most successful brands in the fashion accessory market actually using affordable and mass customer marketing in order to generate consistent sales. After all, one of the main challenges facing the fashion accessory industry is the fact that once buyers have purchased a luxury handbag or an expensive diamond ring, or a high end watch to accessorise their office wear with, they are unlikely to make a repeat purchase in the foreseeable future.
The high end and expensive brands may generate the most profit through their sales, but those who price their items at the lower end of the scale are in fact more likely to see a consistency to their sales as buyers decide to shop there more regularly and pick up more than one purchase in a set period of time. It is also here that we see customers reacting well to the fact that many of these high street accessory stores also offer an easy to use service whereby the customer can go in to the store, pick what they want and take it home on the same day.
For those brands with no instore experience available, the value of ecommerce is huge – generally encompassing ownership of their own retail site, with many also taking advantage of the opportunity to be showcased and celebrated on much larger accessory sites and comparison sites as well.
Social media and online marketing is an integral part of the ecommerce journey for any brand, with accessories being one of the most popular markets for influencer and celebrity endorsements – tapping into the idea that “if it looks good on them, it’ll look good on me”. On the contrary to fashion and clothing which can be more difficult to read in terms of the size and shape of models and the way that clothing sits on celebrity models and ambassadors, accessories tend to be something which can suit anyone regardless of size or gender – making visual marketing a much easier process for accessory brands to get their head around.
But is it working?
Trend has always played a huge part in the success and challenges within the accessory sector, with some of the most popular brands finding themselves struggling in the wake of seasonal trends, a drop in disposable income, and a shift in the priorities of potential customers. The fact is, accessories have always been and always will be a luxury purchase – unlike footwear and clothes, we do not need jewellery and nice handbags in order to go about our daily lives, and so in the wake of an economical slip or drop in financial freedom, accessories are likely to be one of the first things to go.
There are things that the industry and brands within it can do – for example making their pieces more accessible to a mass market through vouchers and deals, and using marketing in different ways to shift the perception of accessories from being a luxury purchase to more of a necessity.
One of the best ways to achieve a rise in sales through vouchers and discounts is to take the “out of season” stock and plug it as part of a new deal available. While some buyers are inevitably set on always having the very latest designer handbag or the finest set of earrings available, there are many who are happy to invest in something which is classed by the industry as out of season. It all depends on a brands’ ability to view their products through the eyes of the customer – understanding that many are looking for an investment accessory which they can use time and time again regardless of whether there is a newer version available or not. These are the buyers most likely to notice, acknowledge and make the most of any deals and vouchers the industry offers.
One of the major trends within the accessory industry is weddings, with bridal accessory stores making up a large part of many new brands entering the online e-merchant marketplace, through both their own websites and ecommerce stores, and marketplace sites like Etsy.
Bridal accessories are most often found in the jewellery and hair accessory market, though retailers and brands often use weddings on the whole to market and sell everything from clutch bags to travel accessories and more.
Another trend in the fashion accessory industry, and one which is becoming increasingly popular with the constant rise of social media influence, is the addition of new brand collaborations between designers and celebrities – using the designer’s status to support the price tag, while leaning heavily on the popularity and notoriety of the celebrity to create something which will be noticed and picked up by the media and customers alike.
Some of the most popular examples include:
We then have collaborations which extend outside of the celebrity, instead using other influential names and organisations in order to reach a different audience and reposition the accessory brand in the eyes of its market. A great example of this is the ever-growing selection of accessory brands who are partnering themselves with charities and charitable organisations, taking the opportunity to broaden their community outreach through the donation of various profits and the raising of charity profiles. Some of the best examples include:
Of course a lot of this affects and has an impact on brand image, and so both the brands and charities have to take care to ensure that any partnerships portray the right messaging for their followers – but for the most part, the growing trend of accessory collaborations with charity organisations shows a nod towards social responsibility which is only going to make the industry more popular.
And then we have the collaborations which occur between brands themselves, with many of the most popular accessory brands and retailers creating partnerships in order to widen their audiences and use each other’s prowess and success for their own growth. As a trend, this is something which pushes larger audiences towards brands they might otherwise have not come across, using the popularity and reach of sometimes broader and sometimes more targeted audiences and advertising in order to generate extra success and sales. For many brands, this means finding their way into retail stores which allow their products to be seen in person by potential buyers. Some of the best examples of brand partnerships include Shahla Karimi (a fine jewellery brand) and fashion brand Kenneth Cole, and the ongoing partnership between Monsoon and Accessorize which are owned by the same parent company and often share store space, but which operate as two separate entities and brands – except for when they come together to launch specific occasion wear collections and ranges.
There may be a select number of retailers who are renowned for stocking fashion accessories, but when it comes to the number and breadth of brands out there in the modern market, the choices are endless.
To stand out in the industry, not only do brands have to adapt their messaging and marketing to suit the trends that are occurring within the marketplace and the social media field; joining forces with voucher providers and online deal hubs, adding their brand to voucher codes and gift cards, and using the power of larger brands through collaboration and endorsement. They also have to create something which is different, and which stands out from the competition: namely something which caters to a gap in the market which was previously underserved.
A great example of this is vegan accessories, with the rise in veganism leading to a vast increase in the amount of faux leather goods being created and sold by responsive brands. Eco-friendly accessories are another growing trend which has become popular in response to the climate crisis, with many celebrities and influencers now choosing to endorse only those brands which are pushing out messages of positivity and environmental concern to their target audiences.
In short, the fashion accessory industry is one filled with potential, opportunity, and also challenge. It is a market that responds well to vouchers and deals, with some of the most popular and successful brands being those who are renowned for catering to large numbers of mass market buyers through affordable deals and great designs. And it is also a market which, when tapped into correctly, can create and secure some really meaningful partnerships and collaborations.
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