We may be tightening our belts money wise, but new research from Mintel finds belts are proving to be Britain’s most in-demand fashion accessory.
Last year, more than 16 million of us (41%) splashed out on a belt, making it Britain’s most widely purchased fashion accessory. More popular than its nearest rival, the handbag (36%) sales of women’s belts grew by a flattering (8.7%) in 2008 to reach £25 million. And although sales are set to dip slightly during 2009, declining to £24 million, over the next five years alone, the market is forecast to grow by nearly 9%, reaching £26 million by the end of 2014.
But it is not only belts which are pulling in consumers. Handbags continue to be a must-have with as many as a third of British women (32%) admitting to ‘needing’ a wardrobe of different handbags. Sales of handbags hit the half billion pound (£507 million) mark in 2008. The demise of the ” it bag” and greater choice among lower-price fashion bags meant lower value growth (+8.3%) in 2008 than in previous years. The budget fashion handbag sector has grown strongly on the back of being able to interpret trends at low prices and this trend is set to continue.
While sales of handbags are expected to drop during 2009, Mintel expects to see a recovery in 2010. Furthermore, over the next five years the market is set to grow by 26% to reach £633 million in 2014.
” accessories such as belts and handbags have benefited from fashion trends and celebrity styles. A greater focus on body conscious silhouettes and the waist has been good news for belts. The wide obi style was a key look for 2008, seen on several catwalk celebrities,” comments Katrin Magnussen, Senior Fashion Analyst at Mintel.
“More affordable – yet still good quality – fashion handbags have increased in popularity, as they satisfy the desire to be in fashion, but not to bust the budget,” adds Katrin.
Overall, the total fashion accessories market increased in value by 4.7% during 2008 to reach £1.05 billion. Today as many as four in ten (39%) of Brits regard accessories as ‘very important’.
And it is not only women who are driving sector sales. Men’s ties form the biggest part of the men’s accessories market (£166 million), and the fashion for skinny ties has bolstered market growth.
Mintel estimates that the total fashion accessory market will decline by just 1% to £1,035 million in 2009 as consumers buy fewer or less expensive accessories, and more make do with what they already have.
“Fashion accessories provide a wardrobe update for less money than a complete outfit, and are an ideal treat even to consumers being more careful about their spending. They have a ‘feelgood factor’ and have traditionally been relatively recession-proof, hence the 2008 sector growth,” comments Katrin.
The report also highlights a definite trend towards polarisation. While some consumers will opt to spend less and go to value retailers, others will buy fewer better quality items as a lasting investment.

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