WOMEN in Wales carry the most expensive handbags in Britain, according to a new survey.
Taking into account the price of the bag itself, and the value of the contents inside, the average woman in Wales carries a handbag worth £337 - higher than both the UK average of £300 and the London average of £325.
The survey of 3,000 women, conducted by Cornhill Direct insurance, found that although women paid an average of £48 for their bag, 20% had bought a designer bag, which often cost several hundred pounds.
When it comes to what's inside the bag, women have an average of £250 worth of goods, including a purse worth around £21 and make-up valued at £51. Alongside that women generally carry £33 worth of cash, a mobile valued at £97 and an MP3 player worth £35. They also include a £7 pen and a £8 diary or personal organiser.
It's easy to see why one in 10 women questioned said they had needed to take action to prevent their handbag being stolen by opportunist thieves. One in five saying their bag had been stolen or lost.
Wenda James Rowe, of Cardiff-based The Style Team style advisers said she was not surprised that women in Wales have come out top in the survey.
"You see it when you walk around Cardiff," she said. "Wales does take an awful lot of interest in bags, with women seeing them as an accessory that will finish off an outfit."
She said it had become commonplace for women to own one decent bag, rather than 10 cheaper ones, with many asking for expensive handbags for birthday or Christmas presents.
"It's such an important accessory these days, where once it used to be jewellery or scarves," she said. "It's a statement. It's a sign of where you are in your life and your career, it shows you have got money. And also there are so many fantastic bags out there - Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Mulberry."
Wenda said women were often inspired to buy a certain bag after seeing a picture of a celebrity carrying it, or by stories in the media that designers such as Louis Vuitton have waiting lists for some of their styles.
However, part of the reason why bags have become so desirable is because British women are becoming more influenced by their Italian and French counterparts. There, a good bag and shoes are essential accessories and have been for many decades.
"British women are cottoning on to that," she said. "You don't need to go mad with lots of jewellery and scarves. A good bag makes a simple and powerful statement."
Cornhill Direct spokesman, Mark Bishop, said, "The value of the average handbag has shot up in recent years as more and more people carry expensive items such as mobile phones and MP3 players. Losing or having your bag stolen can be extremely stressful and it also leaves you open to identity theft. "
Mr Bishop said handbags were a prime target for thieves. "Try not to carry around important documents and take sensible precautions to minimise the risk of theft, particularly in bars and restaurants. For many women, their handbags are a window into their lives so they are worth taking care of."
Cathryn Scott finds the handbag you have - and the one you'd love
The one you (probably) have
J by Jasper Conran bag, £50, Debenhams
Debut Collection purse, £20, Debenhams
Make-up, £47.47 (Est e Lauder ideal light illuminating pen, £22; No7 lip gloss, £7.50, L'oreal eye compact, £5.99 Lush Party On Temple Balm, £3.95, L'Oreal lip gloss, £6.99)
Berkley pen, £14, Debenhams
Nokia mobile phone, from £89
MP3 player, £39
Diary, from £7, Woolworths
Total = £299.47
The one you'd (probably) love
Radley bag, £120, Debenhams
Rocha.John Rocha purse, £30, Debenhams
Make-up, £70 (Miss Dior Cherie perfume, £29,50, blush, £22.50, Skin Flash Pen, £20)
Star by Julien Macdonald mirror compact, £12 reduced to £6, Debenhams
Berkley pen, £24.95
Sony Ericsson Z610i, £199.99
IPod Nano, from £99
Diary by Mari Posa, £9, Debenhams
Total = £658.94