Travel Goods Association
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What's Happening Out There

THIS ISSUE OF TRAVEL GOODS SHOWCASE INCLUDES ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT features of the year, TGA's State of the U.S. Travel Goods Market Report. There's good news in its bird's eye reporting, with life returning to many industry segments after a tough 2009. That's terrific, but I like to see what's happening on the ground. And, so I asked around: What's happening at the retail level?

"The trend continues to be convenience. People are looking to make their travels easy and avoid paying extra fees for anything," says Debby Calvert of AAA Mid-Atlantic. "Anything that makes travel easier is trendy." It's a sentiment echoed by Jeff Izenson of Specialty Luggage, "It's all about the weight and 4-wheel trolleys."

Airline luggage fees continue to power the carry-on market. "Wheeled carry-ons are definitely strong, up 37%, and we're seeing more non-wheeled carry-ons that can fit on regional airlines," observes Peter Cobb of eBags. "The most important size is the maximum carry-on size," acknowledges Elliot Saks of Lexington Luggage and A.Saks Luggage.

We're also feeling the influence of other retail categories, as consumers rely on our industry for mobility solutions. They love their portable gadgets! Apple's iPad, for example, had an unexpected impact. "We have over 200 iPad cases, and iPad-related searches are in the top five searches on," says Peter Cobb, with Jeff Izenson also reporting heavy requests for iPad cases at Specialty Luggage.

Rolling duffel sales seem strong, judging by my straw poll. Elliot Saks reports tremendous interest in "the largest rolling lightweight duffel." Dennis Owcarz of Sears sees it, too: "Duffels that allow customers to fit a large amount of their belongings are growing." Maybe it's a response to per-piece airline baggage fees, or maybe the increase in road trips and staycations as families adopt more frugal lifestyles, but I've noticed it, too — rolling duffels are hot!

Consumers are spending more than last year, but watching what they spend. Individual pieced luggage collections are strong for Sears, according to Dennis Owcarz: "The customer does not need a 6-piece luggage set and may only be able to use two of them."

And sales and discounts continue to be a powerful way to bring consumers into stores. "We did a direct-mail postcard that had a 'Buy More, Save More' offer — the first piece is full price, second is an extra 15% off, everything after that is 25% off. That's driven business, especially luggage, up during the last part of July," relates Leslee Richards of Lieber's Luggage. Elliot Saks reports similar success with his Lexington Luggage retail operation: "You can advertise an item at just $10 off and your orders will double."

My takeaway, after reading these retailer responses, is there's opportunity out there if you're observant and adaptive. Retailers and manufacturers who are proactively responding to consumer demand for convenience and cost-savings are the ones driving our industry's recovery.

And recovery is definitely a trend I like seeing!


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