Trends in Luggage
When I go shopping for a new suitcase, the first thing I look for is a reasonable price. But the folks at the luggage convention say you get what you pay for. Travelpro French is the company that invented the crew series of luggage -- those upright, square bags with wheels and a pull-up handle made popular by flight attendants and now dragged along by millions of passengers in every airport around the world. I asked CEO Kim Ballis why I should spend more of my travel dollar on my luggage.
The biggest challenge for baggage builders is making a suitcase that will withstand manhandling by dozens of baggage jockeys. Newer bags include tougher ballistic nylon, retractable handles, and wheels like those on in-line skates. Of course, there is another strategy in the world of luggage survival: choose a bag that looks unique -- one that would be costly to repair if it got roughed up. Doug Tharpe of Boyt Manufacturing says baggage handlers are known to be more gentle with unusual bags.
The most successful manufacturers at this year's convention seemed to carve out a niche market. There was luggage designed for the business traveler: a three-piece suit and a laptop all in one carry-on bag; there was luggage designed for the upscale market: imported leather gorgeous enough to be written into your will so your heirs won't fight over it; and then there's luggage designed especially for the youngest travelers. Nick Johnson of Travelers Club Luggage says in the old days, kids would pack their clothes in their parent's bag.
Juvenile luggage comes in every color of the rainbow and most contain some special accessory, such as a buckle strap that blinks on and off -- an easy way to spot your kid in a crowd. Women are another niche market. According to industry surveys, women make 70 percent of all luggage purchases in America. About half the bags are for the men in their lives -- and most of those bags are the basic black ballistic nylon variety.
Several manufacturers are showing bags made of floral upholstery fabric to appeal to feminine buyers. But Gloria Archibald of Gloria Ray Accessories says women want more than just pretty luggage. They want bags and compartments that will hold all the travel items a woman needs to bring on a trip.
So-called "body bags" were also a hot item at the luggage show, with buyers lined up three-deep waiting to take a look at these black bags made of woven Italian microfiber. These are mail sack-shaped purses that fit snugly against a woman's hip. I asked Toni Ray of Hobo International why the bags are so popular.
But Rick Saez of Eagle Creek says women aren't the only consumers looking for better packing solutions. He showed me what looked like a large envelope, fastened with Velcro. Inside was a thin plastic board with folding instructions.
Saez claims the packing envelopes will do for your luggage what closet organizers do for your closet. Of course, if he saw the disaster that lurks inside my once professionally organized closet, he might change his sales pitch.
From the American Luggage Dealers Convention in Long Beach, California, I'm Kitty Felde for The Savvy Traveler.
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