Ribbons, bows fly off retail shelves

Sales ‘tripled’ in recent months, says store manager and a TikTok trend is a reason

4 min read
Males bicep with a ribbon around it. Tulips with a bow
caption A Tiktok trend has propelled ribbons to being used as an everyday accessory.
Warren D'Silva

On the Dalhousie quad, Kali McNeil struggles in the strong February gusts of wind to keep the pink satin bows in her hair.

McNeil, a Dalhousie University law student, said, “For us future corporate girlies, bows are like a secret handshake that only we know; when we see another girl walk down the street wearing a bow, I look at it and think to myself, bestie!”

From red carpets to on-campus style, bows have been making waves in the fashion space.

 In Halifax, store employees say they can barely keep bows in stock.

Girl with white bow in her hair
caption Pulling together an outfit by tying your hair with a bow is the latest trend.
Warren D’Silva

“We have sold out of our pink, red and lilac ribbons and have had to order them multiple times,” said Richard West, store manager at the Washmill Lake branch of art supply store Michaels.

“My guesstimate would be we have sold over triple the regular ribbon sales since around Halloween last year.”

West said a new self-checkout system doesn’t allow managers to see how many ribbon bundles are bought monthly. But he said, “from today morning till (late afternoon) a total of 36 bundles of ribbon have been bought.”

While helping Allison Harris find the right shade of grey ribbon in the store, Michaels sales representative Tula Rego said, “Last week itself we had to re-order ribbons because we had run out of stock, and now look at the (empty) shelves.”

Store manager walks by ribbion aisle
caption The ribbon aisle had been stocked 30 minutes before clicking this picture, and rows are already empty.
Warren D’Silva

Michaels has a whole aisle dedicated to ribbons and they cannot seem to keep pink, white, red, and pastel-coloured ribbons on the shelves.

Harris mentions the TikTok trend of tying ribbons around a boyfriend’s bicep, saying, “I have been tying ribbons in my hair and on my jeans for a while now. (My boyfriend) was intrigued when I showed him the trend, and now he can try it too.”

The hashtag #bows on TikTok has over 1 billion views.

Rego said girls influenced by the TikTok fad have been coming and buying multiple ribbon reels.

Store worker adjust ribbions at Michaels
caption Michaels ribbon sales have increased and they now sell variety packs.
Warren D’Silva

“(Ribbons) used to be bought just to wrap gifts or tags, but now they are being used on clothes, hair, bags, shoes, headphones, on cakes, pencils and even on ice cubes.”

The Cut, a New York-based fashion publication, published an article investigating the so-called “Bow Tax”. Brands have been adding over 50 per cent markup on apparel with bows added to them.

For instance, daisy stud earrings sold by Simone Rocha generally retail for $116, but the same earrings with ribbons added retail at $295.

Fashion label Miu Miu, known for their coquette esthetic, sells a $650 white cotton T-shirt. They also sell a piece that is almost the same but with a black ribbon around the neck at $1,085.  Balenciaga sells a pair of black shoelaces for $11; these same shoelaces in bow stuck-to-ear studs retail for over $214.

Many of these brands overcharge because they feel “it’s a trend people will buy it, but a little hot glue and ribbon and you have essentially the same piece,” McNeil said.

Pink ribbons on shelves
caption Ribbons are flying off the shelves because of the TikTok trend.
Warren D’Silva

West at Michaels says, “To the best of my memory, all the people asking to be directed towards the ribbon aisle of late have been in their mid-teens right up to their late 20s.”

For McNeil, “Bows began as an ironic statement, some may say taking back the control.”

She feels like it was a symbol of rebellion, with “the message in the Barbie movie of girlhood … We have collectively made bows our subtle symbol of rebellion.”

Stocked Ribbon collection at a DIY store
caption Ribbons have skyrocketed in popularity.
Warren D’Silva

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About the author

Warren D'Silva

Warren D'Silva, a fashion and lifestyle content creator turned journalist. He believes that all you need to do is find your inner confidence...

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