Handbags are a girl's best friend: over a third of young British women prioritise handbags over underwear

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Published on April 3rd, 2014

Forget diamonds, new research from Mintel reveals handbags may now be a girl’s best friend. Indeed, today, young British women (aged 16 to 24) think handbags are a more important item to purchase than underwear, with 38% of them having spent their extra money on handbags compared to 36% who have bought underwear. What is more, young womens’ love of handbags is stronger than their passion for both costume jewellery (26%) and scarves (20%).

And it is not just young women clutching a handbag. Even their more mature counterparts (women aged 45-54) see handbags as one of the most desirable fashion accessories, prioritising handbags (29%) over underwear (26%). And while women aged 16-24 remain keen buyers of handbags, some four in ten (36%) of 25-34s have bought a handbag in 2013, compared to 29% in 2012.

Tamara Sender, Senior Fashion Analyst at Mintel, said:

“While consumers have become considerably more prudent with their money as a result of the recession, women have continued to spend on fashion items, with handbags the main driver of sales. The fact that younger women place more importance on handbags than what might be considered everyday essentials such as underwear is good news for the fashion industry – because as this fashion conscious generation grow up, they will continue to invest more as their earnings increase.”

“With consumers aged 25-34 starting to dominate fashion accessories purchases and being the demographic most likely to spend more on handbags, retailers need to make sure that their products and retail offering meet their needs. This age group, who are rapidly catching up with their younger counterparts to become the main fashion accessories shoppers, place the least importance on low price and sales and special offers, indicating that they have greater spending power and are less squeezed than 16-24s.” Tamara explains.

Today, handbags come high up on the list of women’s fashion priorities, with over half (51%) of the female UK population, equivalent to 13.5 million women, having bought at least one handbag in 2013. Overall, handbags account for the largest share of the fashion accessories market and have seen the strongest sales in the sector, up 11% between 2012 and 2013, to top £1.2 billion. Overall, the fashion accessories market grew by 4.7% in 2013 to reach £2.5 billion.

When it comes to buying fashion accessories, including handbags, it seems most women just can’t resist a bargain, with over half (59%) of them incentivised by sales or discounts. And while low price remains key for many consumers, women aged 25-34 place the least importance on price, with just 47% buying on sales or special offer compared to 56% of 16-24s and 56% of 35-44s. What is more, up to 16% of women who have bought handbags in the last twelve months admit to having bought on impulse, while 21% bought a bag to accompany a new outfit from the same store.

And finally it is not just women with a love of handbags in the UK today. Indeed, one in thirteen (8%) men spent their extra money on a ‘manbag’ in the last year. Furthermore, while a new fashion trend is a key purchasing incentive for 14% of women, the figure shoots up to 23% amongst men. In addition, 22% of male consumers (vs 8% of women) claim to be motivated by innovation when they purchase a new bag (eg: bags with speakers for playing music).