How to Start a Handbag Business

Posted: 18th November 2015

bsFashion is a notoriously fickle business; chewing up and spitting out many new designers. However with careful thought and planning, an accessories business can transcend fashion, especially if the handbags are unique with amazing design and manufacture in the highest quality material and even better if they are made in the UK.

As with any business do your market research first and decide where your business will sit in the market

  • – Is it new innovation or style? For example does anybody else make a soft, BIG leather bag with a magazine holder?

– Do your design, materials and creative skills set you head and shoulders above similar existing products?

This is your Unique Selling Point.  It will be the reason why people will be tempted to buy your bags.

Try not to compete on price (see below) and try not to be too much of a slave to the prevailing fashion trends or seasonal colours; the majority of bags sold are black or brown and you don’t want to be left with lots of stock when dayglo is out!

* Branding and marketing

Source your materials carefully and to fit in with your USP; if it is about local or ethical your materials must match your marketing. If it is high fashion be prepared to change rapidly and fit in with the current trends especially referencing celebrities or designers.

Be passionate about your design and product, always wear your own bags and if budget allows let your friends and family wear them too. Take every opportunity to “show off” your bags; events, shows, exhibitions. People like to feel, smell and imagine.

Don’t skimp on photography, make your product look fabulous and develop a brand personality; this works really well for online sales especially on the market sites like Etsy and Notonthehighstreet. If you are selling wholesale to shops, make sure they have plenty of information about you and your bags and plenty of reason to sell, the sales staff need to love your product as much as you do in order to sell it.

Use social media to its absolute limit; with bags and accessories being so visual, Instagram and Pinterest are perfect, lots of lovely pictures changing rapidly. Add a blog and Twitter feed talking about fashion or icons or business but with a sneaky mention of your product and you will fast build up a database of potential customer. Remember the 80/20 rule – use just 20% of your content to promote your brand, and 80% to content that really interests your audience and engages them in conversation.

Without a massive marketing budget social media can help your customers buy into your product, drip feeding stories, pictures and scenarios, will make them devotee’s and your greatest marketing tool.

* Pricing

Customers want to feel that they are getting good value for money, buying something useful and necessary but also special and even iconic.

Think hard about the price point for your handbags, people do expect to pay a premium for handmade and unique bags, but it is a sensitive market and there is a lot of competition. Your retail price should always cover your raw material cost (the leather and trimmings) and overheads (your premises, electricity, your tools) but don’t forget to cost in your time and profit.

If you spend 5 hours making a bag at a very conservative £5.00 per hour your bag is costing £25 before any materials or marketing – you have to charge a lot to cover all costs.  It’s a difficult balance and you can only price according to what the market will pay so longer term look at alternative production methods and ways of keeping costs down.

* Top Tips

  • Images images and more images. Have lots of beautiful pictures in different surroundings and occasions and take every opportunity to show your bags
  • Talk to your customers even if you can’t see them; create a story around your products and help them imagine
  • Keep your stock small initially and twiddle with the subtle nuances which make bags work for different customers (you and your friends are not the customer!)
  • Price for the market but make sure you still make a profit

If you are new to business you can find help, new skills and collaborations at the WiRE Networks, friendly, welcoming and supportive.



Article by Fiona Davies, WiRE Business Manager