From Margaret Thatcher to Kate Middleton, British women have always embraced the handbag – the market is worth over £1.3bn here and, according to one survey, the average woman in the UK owns 14 of them, and buys three new ones every year. Not a bad business to be in, then.
But keeping it all sewn up in handbags isn’t quite as simple as those figures might suggest. It’s a fickle and highly competitive market, with everything from market stall cheapies for a tenner a throw at one end, to ultra-premium ‘investment’ bags from Chanel and Hermès for up to £10,000 each at the other.
The key to success in such a crowded and fast-moving space is knowing who your customer is, says Justin Stead, CEO of London bag designer Radley & Co. "Many of our competitors are trying to chase the 18- to 27-year-old. That’s not us. We have a mature audience of 40 to 65: she knows who she is, she has a strong sense of herself and wants great products and great value. She is not fashion-led but she does want to look great and be relevant."