Handbag sales at risk as young women turn to backpacks, fanny packs

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Handbags aren’t their bag, baby!

Makers of pricey handbags are at risk of losing a generation of customers as millennials and Gen-Zers ditch purses, clutches and pocketbooks in favor of backpacks and even fanny packs – and that’s if they carry a bag at all, according to a study.

Just 39% of women aged 18 to 35 said they carry a handbag for activities other than work or school, according to a survey from Circana, which tracks online and in-store retail receipts for some 150,000 consumers.

That’s compared with 60% of women aged 35 and older who say they always carry a handbag.

Younger women bought 2% fewer handbags during the 12 months ended in April compared to the previous year, while handbag sales by older women spiked 7% during the same time frame, according to the report.

That’s a major gap “with profound long-term implications for luxury brands like LVMH and near luxury brands like Coach which depend upon handbags for the lion’s share of their revenues and profits,” said Pamela Danziger, author of “Meet the HENRYS: The Millennials That Matter Most for Luxury Brands.”


A woman posing with a fanny-pack on her waist.
Women between the ages of 18 and 34 are buying more fanny-packs contributing to an overall decline in handbag sales.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Donning a fanny-pack, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to be the fashion faux pas it once was — despite Kim Kardashian being recently ripped for sporting one.

Sales of fanny, waist and chest packs were up 56% among younger women while sales of everyday backpacks were up 7%, according to the report. A Lululemon belt bag that sells for less than $40 has been especially popular, says Beth Goldstein, Circana’s footwear and accessories analyst.

Younger women who are “seeking both function and fashion” are also scooping up small crossbody bags, which is the most popular style, she said.

Sales of women’s wallets year to date, meanwhile, are down just over 20% compared with the same period in 2019, while sales of credit card cases are up 16%, according to Circana.

“We don’t need to carry as much because we aren’t going to the office every day and our phones have become our wallets,” Goldstein added.


A woman wearing a fashionable back-back.
Hands-free bags are most popular with younger consumers.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Happy woman excited over her new bag.
Women 35 years-old and older are more likely to carry a traditional handbag with them all the time.
Getty Images

Danziger attributed the bagless trend by young women to their desire to be ‘hands-free,’ while older women carry bags with them out of ‘habit.’

Some older women including Martha Stewart is among the older women breaking the habit and embracing the trend.

“What are handbags?” the 81-year-old domestic diva told Vogue in a recent interview. “I have a Bandolier phone case, which is my pocketbook.”

Younger women aren’t completely shunning bags, “since showy, name-brand handbags are the preferred way for women to display their luxury status,” Danziger added.

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