Are people selecting travel destinations based on how fabulous the Instagram photos will be? We wouldn’t be surprised. Both local and far-flung travel is on the rise, as many consumers seek experiences over stuff. But that’s only half the story. The truth is, they still need stuff to get them there in comfort and style, all while making their friends back home jealous.
The accessories industry is responding in kind, with items that fit these needs at various levels. Look for luggage and bags that charge phones, customizable weekenders, whimsical luggage tags, smart wallets with RFID blocking security technology, cute sleep masks and more. Industry consolidations on the luggage side are making the strong stronger. Luggage company Samsonite paid $105 million cash to buy travel-skewed site eBags.com (which was started by two former Samsonite employees back in 1998). Samsonite had already bought Tumi for $1.8 billion in 2016.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no room for startups or disruptors. “Indestructible” luggage brand Away Travel has sold nearly 100,000 suitcases generating $20 million in revenue since its 2016 launch. Founders Steph Korey and Jen Rubio (who both came from Warby Parker), interviewed 800 frequent fliers and discovered that a huge pet peeve was competing with fellow travelers for a floor outlet to charge devices. Enter Away Travel luggage with built-in USB charger. The direct-to-consumer model keeps retails under $300. The company recently closed on a $20 million round of funding, music mogul/entrepreneur Jay-Z recently invested and Away is embarking on celebrity collaborations.
Department stores, in fact, have generally shied away from luggage due to floor real estate constraints, leaving it to stores like TJMaxx who target the bargain hunter, TV shopping or e-commerce sites that can free-ship larger travel items. Handbag designer Aimee Kestenberg launched fashionable luggage a year ago and has already taken it to QVC in the U.S, Germany, Japan and the UK.
“My luggage sold out on air in the first show. I do so well with my TV retailers because you can talk to your consumers and explain all the features to them,” says Kestenberg. “You don’t get that in department stores.” While functionality and durability are key, there’s more to the equation. The luggage industry has traditionally been unisex, usually sold in black, gray or red, but it’s getting increasingly fashionable.
“Traditionally, the travelgoods market feels male by nature, with so much emphasis on function and durability,” says eBags CEO Mike Edwards, who points out that the eBags consumer is 70% women. “There’s a lot of energy and enthusiasm among manufacturers now on how to be more relevant to the female traveler.” Other notable luggage launches include Celine Dion luggage, licensed to Bugatti Group, and Adrienne Vittadini luggage, licensed to Authentic Brands Group. Indeed, the Travel Goods Association noted that in 2016, overall consumer preferences in 2016 seemed to veer back toward more traditional luggage, and away from the use of large totes or duffels for travel.
With airline travel getting more and more miserable, items that keep people cozy and organized on airplanes are also growing in demand, from whimsical sleep masks to unique pillows to organizers that let fliers seemingly organize the black hole of the front seat pocket. SLG’s are also benefiting from the travel surge, with essentials kits, pouches and train cases to organize cosmetics, documents and cords. Travel-related words add a fun touch.
Some forays into travel are less pragmatic but equally fun, such as Louis Vuitton’s new DIY “Make It Yours” campaign, which features custom patches inspired by travel stickers that adorned LV vintage travel trunks. Unlike many personalization programs, however, this one is done as an in-store service.