State of the U.S. Travel Goods Market 2004–2018:
China Tariffs Temper Good Economy, Growing Sales

Princeton, NJ – Thanks to a strong economy, U.S. travel goods sales grew in 2018. For the most part, American consumers bought more and paid more, according to a new report released by the Travel Goods Association (TGA). However, the looming threat – and actual imposition – of punitive tariffs on U.S. travel goods imports from China hampered that growth. Travel goods include luggage, backpacks, travel/sports bags, business cases/computer bags, handbags, totes/duffels, personal leather goods, and luggage locks. TGA estimates that sales of travel goods in the United States hit $31.2 billion in 2018, up 1.3% from 2017.

“Thanks to a great economy, consumers were willing to buy more and spend more for better travel goods in 2018,” explains Michele Marini Pittenger, TGA’s president. “But,” added Pittenger, “that growth, and industry profits, were both tempered by the China tariffs.”

2018 sales numbers were negatively impacted by the looming threat of tariffs on U.S. travel goods imports from China, the actual imposition of 10% punitive tariffs on U.S. imports of travel goods from China on September 24, 2018, and the threat of tariffs being increased to 25% on January 1, 2019. In 2018, 82% of U.S. travel goods imports were imported from China.

“These tariffs are not paid by China,” stated Pittenger,” but by hardworking American families in the form of a hidden tax.” Continued Pittenger, “If the trade war is not resolved soon, the U.S. travel goods industry will face higher prices and lower sales in 2019.”

Here is a quick look at how TGA estimates each of the major travel goods categories performed in 2018:

Travel was up in 2018 resulting in a 7.1% increase in U.S. luggage sales by volume. Just as important, American consumers feeling better about the economy also spent more to buy more, driving unit prices up 7.9% in 2018, a reversal after years of declining prices.

Sales of backpacks grew 3.7%. However, unit prices continued their decline slipping 0.5% in 2018.

Travel/sports bags sales fell in 2018 by 1.7%. Unit prices declined 0.5%.

Business case and computer bag sales continued to fall, hitting another record low in 2018, with unit sales of business cases and computer bags sliding another 19.8%. Versatile backpacks and totes/handbags with built-in laptop sleeves, and the ongoing replacement of laptops with smartphones and tablets, combined with the ongoing casualization of business, all contributed to the continuing decline.

Handbag sales increased slightly, growing 0.4% in 2018. And, with the growing economy, American consumers were finally willing to pay more, driving unit prices up slightly (1.9%). To put all of this in perspective, American women bought 266 million handbags in 2018, or more than one handbag, on average, for every female in the United States, from infants to centenarians.

Sales of personal leather goods remained essentially unchanged in 2018, with unit prices falling 5.5%.

With more travel in 2018, luggage locks saw an 8.4% growth in sales. And consumers were willing to pay more, driving unit prices up 13.5%.

For more information, go to TGA’s just released State of the U.S. Travel Goods Market 2004-2018 or contact TGA at 877-842-1938, x-702 to learn more about the latest trends in the U.S. travel goods market.