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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Bag Buoys

Men are carrying more things with them and this is boosting the market for men bags.
The Straits Times - September 14, 2012
By: Imran Jalal
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Bag Buoys ST PHOTO: PANDORA WONG

Men come with quite a lot of baggage these days.

A recent survey of 2,000 guys by American leather goods maker Coach shows that the average Joe carries a total of seven to 15 items in his bag each time he is out. Among the common items are an electronic charger, a tablet PC and food and drinks.

And this has translated to growing sales of men's bags.

In an e-mail interview with Urban, Mr Greg Unis, Coach's vice-president of men's merchandising, says: "Men are carrying more things than ever with them, such as mobile phones and gadgets, and they need a bag that fits them all."

"We notice that they are willing to spend - regardless of the price point - if they like a product and if it improves their lives."

Coach's latest fiscal report released in July showed that the sales of its men's goods had doubled from US$200 million (S$247million) in its last fiscal year to US$400million. Currently, men contribute to about 8 per cent of the company's global net sales, but that figure is expected to hit 25 per cent in the coming years.

Bags, reveals Mr Unis, is the fastest growing category for men's products at Coach. "It is all about men's bags. Their designs, materials and colours are driving Coach's year-on-year growth," he says.

Thanks to male celebrities sporting man bags in public, the average Joe has embraced them too.

As the International Herald Tribune's fashion editor Suzy Menkes wrote in T Magazine this month: "With David Beckham, Brad Pitt and all kinds of sports icons swinging a zippered bag over their shoulders, any stigma about looking effeminate has long since evaporated. Only the most aged comedian would make man-and-bag a butt of jokes."

Besides introducing new men's products such as iPad cases and clutches, Coach is also "aggressively pursuing" male shoppers with dedicated male concept corners within its boutiques, says MrUnis.

Coach started in 1941 producing bags for men but later catered mainly to women in the 1960s, before expanding its men's category last year.

Its 4,600 sq ft flagship store in Wisma Atria, which opened in May, is the biggest Coach store in South-east Asia. It also houses the largest selection of men's goods in the region.

Other bag retailers are quick to woo the male shopper too.

In May, Burberry recorded a revenue of £1.86billion (S$3.67 billion) in its latest fiscal year which ended in March - a 24-per-cent jump from £1.5 billion in the previous fiscal year.

According to The Telegraph, Burberry's sales of non-clothing products for men, such as bags, small leather goods and accessories, jumped 50per cent.

In the United States, sales of men's accessories, including bags and small leather goods, grew 14per cent in the second half of last year to hit about US$6 billion, according to market research firm NPD Group.

Other designers are making a case for bags too. Tomas Maier, who is known for reviving the then ailing Bottega Veneta in 2001 with the pared-down woven Cabat bag for both women and men, has garnered a following among guys for his seasonal renditions of the stealth-wealth design.

Among the hot man bag styles this season are slim briefcases as seen at Lanvin and Prada, as well as man clutches, such as Jil Sander's leather "doggy bag" and Burberry Prorsum's studded folios.

In Singapore, the market for men's bags is dominated by practical and masculine-looking ones, such as the crossbody bag, briefcase and backpack, says Mr Sulabh Madhwal, an industry analyst for personal accessories at market research firm Euromonitor International.

He says: "Several luxury brands, such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Prada, are trying to make the man bag trend popular in Singapore by marketing more male-focused products, such as crossbody bags, business bags and backpacks."

At Taiwanese bag label Porter International (Singapore) in Wisma Atria, which is known for its satchels and crossbody bags, more customers are seeking larger designs such as backpacks, notes MrCullen Ng, its brand and marketing manager.

"They are looking for an all-in-one bag that can fit their everyday essentials, such as an iPad, laptop, gym shoes, documents and sweater," he says.

Men are also more picky when it comes to designs these days.

Italian bags and accessories maker Furla, for one, has been offering more designs and colours since launching its men's range in 2008, says its brand manager Eileen Keh.

For example, two popular designs from its recent spring/summer 2012 range were a $980 woven leather bag that can be used either as a tote bag or a duffel, and a $1,180 tote bag with a pony-skin compartment.

Ms Keh says of today's more discerning male shopper: "Men now look for special details on top of quality materials to ensure their bags stand out."

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