Tired of traditional totes and bags, women are going hands-free.

By Rieva Lesonsky

After a two-year slump, women’s accessories are selling again, according to consumer market research firm The NPD Group, which says U.S. dollar sales of fashion accessories grew 4% in the first 10 months of 2018. Much of the growth is due to increasing sales of what the NPD group calls “untraditional silhouettes. Double-digit sales gains in backpacks, fanny/waist packs, and luggage, alongside sales declines in the historically key categories—like totes, shoppers, and messenger bags—reveals a significant shift in the way consumers are accessorizing.”

While fanny packs are leading the growth wave, sales of women’s backpacks grew 28% in the last year, according to an article in The Atlantic. Handbag sales are down, says Beth Goldstein, NPD’s accessories analyst.

Olga Khazan, who wrote the article in The Atlantic, says she contacted dozens of women who told her they were “juggling multiple bags on public transportation or while walking—in heels, no less! They shared tales of trying to squeeze a laptop, makeup, gym clothes, a water bottle, notebooks and a phone into a classy tote, then giving up and saying, ‘Screw it.’”

NPD’s Goldstein says the increasing popularity of the backpack is mostly driven by women in urban areas, such as New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. She told Khazan, “[it’s all about] comfort…It’s the convenience, the hands free, and not hurting your shoulders. Not worrying about dropping your phone.”

Khazan interviewed Meaghan Mahoney Dusil, the cofounder of PurseBlog, who told her, “…every major handbag designer [is]offering a backpack version of one of its most popular styles. Overall, consumers are opting for the brand they love and finding a backpack they offer.”

However, there’s still room for startups to enter the space: Khazan linked to two in her article, Lo & Sons and Dagne Dover.

Photo courtesy: Lo & Sons