The rise and fall (in weight) of the handbag
The rapid development of personal entertainment and communication technologies is causing quite seismic changes in the weight the average UK female carries in her handbag. Research conducted for UK Department Store chain Debenhams each year for the last two decades shows that the doubling of weight of the handbag between 2002 and 2006, due to the adoption of laptops, has been completely reversed in just three years by the adoption of smartphones, replacing laptops and filofaxes.
Women’s handbags now weigh an average of 1.5kg in the United Kingdom, a significant 57% less than the average of two years ago. A new generation of smaller, lighter multi-purpose gadgets such as the iPhone and Blackberry have replaced heavy laptops, old fashioned mobile phones and filofaxes.
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Said Sue Tebbitts, Handbag Buyer at Debenhams, “Two years ago, women were carrying around 7.3lbs – the equivalent of three and a half bags of sugar - everywhere they went. “Finally the burden placed upon working women is falling – and it’s all thanks to technology.“
With the largest market share in handbags on the high street, department store Debenhams regularly monitors what consumers are carrying with them to ensure shoppers’ needs are met on quality and functionality as well as design.
Results on average handbag weight over the last 15 years reveals the gadgets which have had the most impact on the weight on women’s shoulders:
The mid-nineties saw the popularisation of the mobile phone which added an extra 247grams to Britain’s handbags and taking the overall weight to an average of 1.4kg. The introduction of the iPod increased this further to 1.6kg in the early 2000s.
Weight continued to rise as more and more women began to carry laptop computers in their handbags, peaking at a back-breaking 3.5kgs in 2006 and 2007 when laptop sales were also at their highest.
During this peak, mobile phones, PDAs, device chargers and MP3 players joined laptop computers as items commonly found in women’s handbags.
Since then the introduction of devices like iPhones and Blackberries has slowly brought the average weight of handbags down to the lowest it’s been for seven years, plunging to 1.5kgs at the end of 2009. With the trend for 2010 being smaller handbags than had been popular in recent years, women can expect this lighter approach to continue.
Despite technological advances, the greatest percentage of weight is still taken up by old handbag favourites such as make up, mirror, purse, tissues, perfumes, sanitary products, brushes, toothpaste, receipts, address books and headache pills.
Continues Sue Tebbitts, “As the weight of handbags peaked, we worked to increase the tensile strength of weight-bearing straps and stitching across our offer. This is a level of quality we will continue to offer for those women who are still carrying everything but the kitchen sink around.
“No matter what advances in technology come our way, a woman’s handbag will always have that ‘Mary Poppins’ reputation because women pack a bag ready for anything.”
Books, magazines, brushes, perfume, keys, tube map, deodorants, contraceptive pills and lipsalve also feature prominently.