The Handbag sector covers handbags with or without handles and/or shoulder straps, designed to carry everyday personal belongings. Occasional evening bags are also included as handbags. The market can be divided into firstly, traditional real leather handbags, produced from mechanically or chemically processed animal pelts, and secondly, synthetic fabric handbags, constructed mainly from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane. Of the former, the highest quality handbags are made of full grain leather and the lowest quality handbags made of white split leather.
It is estimated the UK handbag industry is worth £1 billion and is growing steadily in value. This growth in handbag sales is put down to women regarding handbags as essential, having more than one, co-ordinating them with outfits as fashion accessories and choosing different sizes or styles to suit the occasion..
The UK once had a thriving leather handbag industry centred largely in Southwark, East London and Walsall. However, as with all industries in the UK, decline set in from lack of investment, the arrival of synthetic fabrics and the influx of cheap imports. These days, what is left of the UK handbag industry concentrates on high quality and design. Half of the UK handbag imports from the EU come from Italy, with France and Spain major handbag exporters to the UK. From outside the EU, predictably nearly 90% of handbags come from China, although India exports a significant amount of leather handbags the UK.,
The high end of the UK handbag market thrives because buyers realise if looked after, the leather will age well, and buying good quality is a worthwhile investment. Italy is renowned for its fine leather, with Tuscan leather particularly prized. Fashion Houses Gucci and Prada have Tuscan roots.
Current trends within the handbag sector are for handbags to be made of tweed and wool in an imitation of clothing. The Leading supplier of leather for handbags is Pittards, who report a growth in demand for more colourful and textured leather. A continuing trend is the in-corporation of pockets for mobile phones and other electrical gadgets.