State of the U.S. Travel Goods Market 2003–2016: Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder

2003-2016-statistically_speakingPrinceton, NJ – 2016 was an interesting year for the U.S. travel goods market. Depending on the type of travel product, consumers either paid more for less, or paid less for more, according to a new report released by the Travel Goods Association (TGA). Travel goods include luggage, business cases/computer bags, travel/sports bags, handbags, personal leather goods, backpacks and luggage locks. TGA estimates that sales of travel goods in the United States hit $31.4 billion in 2016, a 6.9% decline from 2015.

“Price drove consumers in 2016,” explains Michele Marini Pittenger, TGA’s president. “Where prices dropped, consumers were willing to buy more. But, where prices rose, consumers were more than happy to walk away.”

“However, our industry rose to the challenge,” continued Pittenger. “Despite rising costs and a price-sensitive consumer, the industry turned in a respectable year.”

Here’s a quick look at how each of the major travel goods categories performed in 2016.


Volume sales surged in 2016, with sales of hardside luggage going promotional, doubling 2015 hardside sales, particularly at the lower-end. With the heavy promotion, however, particularly online, average unit prices for luggage suffered their worst decline in decades, with prices sliding 20.7% in 2016.


Conversely, after sales of backpacks hit a record in 2015, sales fell 9.7% by volume and 2.4% by value in 2016. But those consumers still in the market for backpacks in 2016 were willing to pay a premium for what they wanted, driving up average unit prices by 8.1% in 2016.


The travel/sports bags market did not fare well in 2016, dropping 2.9% by volume and 12.1% by value. While it appears that the improving economy drove more companies to provide customers freebies, or promotional bags in 2016, overall consumer preferences in 2016 seemed to veer back toward more traditional luggage, and away from the use of large totes or duffles for travel.


Handbag sales recovered in 2016 after a poor 2015, with unit sales increasing 5.9%. But again, those increased sales came at a price. In fact, average unit prices fell 10.2% in 2016. To put all of this in perspective, American women still bought 252.4 million handbags in 2016, or almost two handbags, on average, for every female in the United States over the age of 14.


According to TGA estimates, the business case and computer bag market experienced its worst year ever, with unit sales of business cases and computer bags sliding 17.4% in 2016. The decline in computer sales and the growth of backpacks and handbags with built-in laptop sleeves, combined with the continued casualization of business, all contributed to the 2016 decline. However, consumers still in the market for business cases and computer bags were willing to pay more to get what they wanted, with average unit prices increasing 2.9% in 2016.


The continued slowdown in sales of smartphones and tablets, and the growth in the sales of backpacks and other items that have built-in protection for tech devices, translated into relatively flat sales (+1.0%) and lower prices (-4.4%) for the covers that protect those expensive purchases.


Luggage locks turned in their lowest sales ever in 2016, with unit sales dropping 40.7%. TSA security requirements seemed to outweigh any perceived benefits from using luggage locks in 2016.

For more information, go to TGA’s just released State of the U.S. Travel Goods Market 2003-2016 Graphs or contact TGA at 877-842-1938, x-702 to learn more about the latest trends in the U.S. travel goods market.