Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Watches and sunglasses – shopping’s bright spots

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By Dhanya Skariachan

men-shopping2There’s nothing like a snazzy watch or a cool pair of sunglasses to  chase away those recession blues.
 
Despite the economic downturn, the U.S. accessories market has displayed some areas of growth, according to a report from market research firm NPD Group, with  watches and sunglasses being bright spots.

That could point to a trend where shoppers are not buying whole outfits, as they try to save money, but are drawn by powerful SALE signs to selectively snap up accessories to accentuate their old wardrobes. 

According to the NPD report, sales of men’s watches grew 20.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 compared to a year ago, in stark contrast to the total accessories market, which saw a 26-percent decline.
 
“Watches continue to be seen as an investment purchase, at least by men,” said Marshal Cohen, an expert on consumer behavior and analyst with market research firm NPD Group.
 
While sales of watches to men of the 25-34 age group grew 1.9 percent, sales to the 35-54 years age group rose 8.5 percent.
 
Sunglasses have been the beneficiary of impulse purchasing, Cohen said, adding that NPD data shows nearly a third of sunglasses purchases were unplanned.  The top place for sunglasses’ sales was department stores. Sales of sunglasses rose 16.8 percent in that channel in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the report.
 
“Even in a tough market, department stores ramped up their sunglasses assortment and put them front and center, and that really paid,” said Cohen.
 
Items like these may be indicators to, well, keep an eye on.
 
“Accessories was one of the last categories to post growth before this downturn and will likely be one of the first to return,” Cohen said.
 
(Photo/ Reuters)

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