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Luggage—When it Rains, it Pours

As one can imagine, the demand for luggage in the Incentive, Recognition, and Reward business has surged with the return of travel. The big challenge now? Supply and demand.

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A photo of luggage on a cart.RRN checked in with incentive representatives, distributors, and manufacturers in the luggage industry to find out what’s happening now that people are traveling again.

Luggage is surging as an IRR category, affirm Debbie Mischel, President, and Sara Dattolo, Sales Consultant, at Pilgrim Promotions, a NY-area incentive representative which represents American Tourister, Tumi, and Samsonite among other brands. “It is definitely coming back. There are still supply chain issues, but more stock is coming in and we are told the fourth quarter will be even better,” says Mischel. The most popular items in the category they say right now are hard-sided luggage, under-the-seat carry-ons, and backpacks.

Briggs and Riley luggage sales are off the charts,” says Kimberly Biggs, Special Markets Sales Manager. “We invested in inventory, launched a new version of our flagship collection Baseline, and added customer experience folks to improve service. Best sellers are carry-ons and hard-sided luggage. Companies are eager to improve employee gifts for years of service, swag, on-boarding and travel.”  The company’s Baseline is a soft-sided luggage line.

George L. Cassius, President, of NY-based Earth Gear Corporation, a luggage wholesaler specializing in the corporate market, sees the same interest in hard-sided luggage and says he is experiencing more orders for sets or single units for bulk programs. “Clients who only did drop-ship are now taking bulk orders.” He says the supply chain issue has remained a challenge but that his company has “product available for immediate delivery, including two-piece soft-sided sets, three-piece hard-side sets, and single units in hard side and soft side.” His company carries the Nomatic and Aleon lines as well as private label brands.

“To anyone who has flown recently, it's pretty clear that air travel is back in a major way,” says Mike Landry, Director of Corporate Sales for Tumi. “We follow the metrics very closely and while international flights - particularly Pacific Rim – lag behind, North American domestic travel has almost fully recovered. American TSA numbers prove this. Carnival Cruise Lines, for example, had its best booking day in its history a few weeks ago. The question is, for those of us that sell luggage into the space that is primarily used for business travel, how much travel is being done for business and how much leisure. We are seeing the debut of something called “bleisure”--travel where a person might go to a conference in a city they've never been to and stay a few extra days. We are also seeing something referred to as “revenge travel,” which is essentially a group or an individual that's just had it with the pandemic. Incentive group travel has been a little slower to come back, notably because of the lead times that it takes to plan a large group event, and the hesitancy that comes along with that.”

Travel accessory sales in the recognition/rewards/corporate gifting channel have never been stronger, Landry says. “As business travel comes back, not to mention group incentive travel, the demand has far outstripped the supply. Luggage and business briefs and business backpacks have always been a central category in the employee engagement world, but regrettably, the category has been crushed with the supply chain issues that you read about every day. If it isn't the bag factory, then it is the zipper factory, and if it isn't the zipper factory it's the coating (zipper paint) factory. Then, once goods get to North America, we have challenges with trucking companies. We are working through all this, and I am extremely optimistic about a late third quarter or early fourth quarter recovery in terms of inventory. Certainly, the category is committed to that.” 

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