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Travel Goods Association Releases State of the U.S. Travel Goods Market 2002-2013: Selling Less for More

Princeton, NJ — Travel goods sales fell by volume in 2013, but consumers were willing to pay more for those fewer products, leading to a rise in sales by value, according to a new report released by the Travel Goods Association (TGA). Travel goods are defined as luggage, backpacks, travel/sports bags, business cases/computer bags, handbags, personal leather goods, and luggage locks. TGA estimates that sales of travel goods in 2013 surpassed pre-recession levels, with U.S. consumers spending an estimated $29.5 billion in 2013 on travel goods, a rise of 17.2% from 2012.

Those numbers don’t tell the whole story, however, as volume sales in 2013 slipped virtually across the board — meaning higher prices made up the difference.

“We are happy to see consumers are recognizing the value of travel goods by buying at, or near, regular prices in 2013,” explains Michele Marini Pittenger, TGA’s president. “We are getting better and better at giving consumers what they want — excitement, quality, value, and variety.”

“However,” commented Pittenger, “the soft volume sales raises concerns that we are in an environment where consumers are willing to ‘pay more to buy less.’”

And the higher prices consumers were willing to pay across the board in 2013 continued to present a double-edged sword for the industry.

“Spiraling costs for the industry means higher prices don’t necessarily translate into higher profits,” continued Pittenger. “I believe the industry will continue to hit the right value equation for consumers in 2014.”

Here’s a quick look at how TGA estimates each of the major travel goods categories performed in 2013:

Luggage sales continued to lag in 2013 with a soft economy and the increasingly negative view of certain types of business travel. According to TGA estimates, luggage unit sales in 2013 slipped 5.2% by volume. On the other hand, unit sales shot up 29.2% by value. This growth was driven by consumers’ growing recognition of the value of the right luggage, and buying more luggage at or near full price. As a result, the average unit price for luggage increased 36.3% in 2013.

Consumers’ love affair with backpacks continued in 2013. And it is just not just cool for school anymore. The versatility of backpacks, especially with all of the gear people are carrying today, has translated into backpacks invading the work and travel markets. Unit sales of backpacks increased 4.7% by volume and 16.8% by value in 2013. With Americans buying a whopping 139.6 million backpacks in 2013, unit prices continued to recover, increasing 11.6% for the year.

Travel/Sports Bags
Travel/sports bags — from “freebies,” or promotional bags, to new variations on the duffel bag and large totes — continued to be popular in 2013 as more consumers chose travel bags for non-traditional uses such as school and business. TGA estimates that unit sales of travel/sports bags in 2013 were flat but dollar sales grew 14.8%. The increasing popularity of quality travel bags led average unit prices to jump 15.0% in 2013.

Business Cases/Computer Bags
Unit sales of business cases and computer bags continued to take a hit, down 4.6% in 2013, as consumers increasingly looked to non-traditional travel goods — backpacks, travel bags — for work. However, with the job market stabilizing, those who did buy chose utility and value over price, pushing the average unit price for business cases and computers bags up 7.0% in 2013.

Handbag sales stalled in 2013. TGA estimates that unit sales of handbags in 2013 slipped 1.3%. However, dollar sales surged 13.9%. With consumers choosing quality over quantity, average unit prices increased 15.4% in 2013. These numbers still translate into a lot of handbags. Americans bought 248.9 million handbags in 2013. In other words, every female in the United States above the age of 14, on average, bought two handbags in 2013.

Personal Leather Goods
As smartphone and tablet sales slowed in 2013, so did the sales of the covers that protect and decorate these personal electronics. TGA estimates unit sales slipped 1.6% in 2013. However, with the continuing view of covers as the new “fashion” item as well as something needed to protect their expensive purchase, people were willing to pay, with sales by value increasing 17.8%, driving average unit prices up 19.8% in 2013.

Luggage Locks
With new security procedures at airports essentially undermining the need for luggage locks, sales continued to fall in 2013, slipping 1.6% by volume. But TGA estimates that dollar sales rose 17.2% in 2013. As a result, luggage lock prices continued to reverse course, with average unit prices growing 19.1% in 2013, as those consumers still buying locks were willing to pay for quality and value.

For more information, go to TGA's just released State of the U.S. Travel Goods Market 2002-2013 Graphs (PDF format) or contact TGA at 877-842-1938, x-702 to learn more about the latest trends in the U.S. travel goods market.

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