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Are Recent Handbag Trends a Blip or a Harbinger of a Generational Shift?

By Samantha Dersarkissian

Are Recent Handbag Trends a Blip or a Harbinger of a Generational Shift?


It often feels like we read about two different worlds: on the one hand, there are reports, such as @Triple Pundint’s 2022 survey, on NextGen customers’ eco-anxiety is leading to significant changes in shopping. On the other hand, many brands cite consumers’ lack of sustainability interest as a key barrier to launching more sustainable offerings. McKinsey & Company and NielsenIQ identified how brands communicate the offering as the culprit. Stand-alone ‘eco’ products fall flat.

However, resale does not suffer the same fate. ThredUP’s recent industry report found that more than half of Gen Z are more likely to shop with a brand that offers secondhand alongside new, up 6 points from 2021. The recent survey also found an increase in the percentage of Gen Z’s shopping resale, now at 30%, and 2 in 5 items in Gen Z closets were bought secondhand. Additionally, 64% look for an item secondhand before buying it new.

Overlay this trend in younger customers finding luxury pieces in more accessible ways with the Atlantic Re:think‘s piece, Something Odd Is Happening With Handbags. The article points out that handbags, a staple of high-end luxury, are changing: once the province of a family-owned business that employed skilled artisans in European workshops is now the domain of consolidated companies forced to produce five or six seasons vs. the traditional two. According to the Atlantic, the new trend is that old bags are on the rise, being shown off wear as a point of pride, the new status symbol. This is consistent with younger generations pushing back on the traditional model of what is fashionable. The question for me here is the nature of the recent data: longer-term trend or blip?

Glossy published a summary of the recent sentiment of brand and retail executives: fashion retail is perilous. The looming possibility of further economic decline and reduced consumer spending has retailers seeing flashbacks to the lowest point of the pandemic. Hence brands and retailers are focused on margin with conservative buys going into the following year.

This may be a welcome relief for the resale marketplaces such as Rent the Runway, whose stock took a hit last week, given lowered guidance for the year. RTR, ThredUP, and others have faced additional headwinds from lower-priced inventory in the market over the past 12 months.

Another implication of more margin-focused brands and retailers is a new breed of resale service providers focused on reducing cost centers such as returns.  The Busy Body published an article on how “Reverse Logistics Startups Attract Investors from Venture Firms.”  The article highlighted Loop Returns and a relatively new startup, Two Boxes, and both focused on the returns space.

Until Next Week,

Andy Ruben | Founder & Exec Chair of Trove

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