Accessories 2011: Belts and small leather goods

Technically Speaking: What’s in your wallet?

By Amy Sciaretta

Consumers are saying goodbye to bulky wallets and hello to sleek and colorful styling. The category has taken a turn for the better with bold color and shape. Brights are taking the stage this season across price categories. Daring patterned linings add an element of surprise to the new trend. As apparel silhouettes stay slim and trim, the front pocket wallet is an essential. Some brands are even creating convertible styles that incorporate a skinny, evening wallet into a standard size.

“We are definitely starting to see some movement in wallets, particularly with color. Men are finally moving beyond black,” says Macy’s Durand Guion. “We have been selling gray, which is consistent with the men’s store where we’re selling gray shoes and jeans. Moving into fall, we will introduce wallets with bold color or that are just trimmed with it, so we’ll have something for the guy who is really into color or who just wants to flirt with it. We’re seeing a lot more texture, specifically perforations, paralleling what we’re seeing in footwear.”

“Give small leather goods the real estate and it will sell,” says Swank’s Rick Luft. “There is no better gift than a wallet—position it that way. Slim is the trend. It’s working at a moderate price with a modern look.”

Perhaps one of the most interesting trends, as reported by Randa and Buxton, are wallets incorporating RFID protection. AOL’s reported back in 2008 that an $8 reader could be used to hack credit cards and all sorts of information from a passerby. This new technology blocks such scanners. Buxton’s Bill DeVito says, “We celebrate the technology by incorporating perforated leather into the design, permitting grin-through of the aluminum-based material.”

“We’re seeing a huge increase in wallet sales,” reports Randa’s Richard Carroll. “Look for the surprise element, like a plaid lining. The young guy now wants two wallets—his everyday wallet as well as the skinny, front-pocket wallet for going out in the evening. Those wallets now need to have pockets to stash more things.”

Holding true for belts, this category is also cleaning up, slimming down and when it’s not getting more colorful, showing more texture.

“We are seeing movement in braided belts and brown belts, going back to khaki, twill and cargo. We’re still moving a tremendous amount of plaque belts,” says Guion. “They are updating their belt wardrobes with something that’s a little more sleek and clean. Looking towards spring,?we have to think about how the fabric belt comes back in because we are seeing a shift towards that style.”

At Saks, Eric Jennings points out that “belts are also slimming. We’re seeing that especially in the advanced area, taking on a look from the late-1980s. We bought a lot of suede this season and it’s performing. We’re also selling belts in a lot of different colors.”
“Things are getting cleaner, agrees Toneka’s Judy Friedheim Davis. “In men’s I think things will be narrower, even when paired with casual pants. We still believe in pyramids for young men, but cleaner than they have been—black on black, for instance.”

Swank’s belt business is very good. “Dressy is the strongest part of the business, but good things are happening in casual, particularly braided belts and fabric belts in Tommy Hilfiger,” says Luft. “It’s interesting to note that white is selling in belts and leather goods—and not for old men! The simple fact is that guys are now out there shopping and a new belt gives them an easy way to make a fashion statement.

Carroll says, “In Dockers, we went extremely casual, but are now dressing it up. Reversible belts are still really important, especially with metal keepers. There is a lot of color—particularly warm chestnut. Darkened edges give belts an authentic old world feel. Moving into more casual, we’re doing a lot with pebble grains, adding depth and texture. Levi’s is our ‘crème de la crème’ collection, featuring Italian leather, all made in Italy or USA by artisans.”

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  1. avatarBill Lavin says:

    All due respect guys, but when your looking for direction and answers for all your store customers in any classification, best address the real directional questions to the origintors and the serious designers that drive those classifications for the markets every season, rather then asking the these monster companies people that season after season copy and live off those real creators designs out there, and then put a license brand name on them, like they could ever come up with an original idea… !! sad.. :( really… b

  2. avatarRaymond Kraemer says:

    I am glad to see some attention paid to fabric belts and colored belts. I’ve always been inclined to want to wear color coordinated belts.
    Also, it’s very difficult for a man to keep his wallet thin when there are vast amounts of credit cards and other cards we need to carry on our person. Perhaps the answer would be in a shoulder bag. Then the problem is to not forget it somewhere; at least that would be a problem for me.

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