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At the end of March, I attended the 2019 Travel Goods Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Organized by the Travel Goods Association, the show brings together brands, retailers, and other travel enthusiasts from around the world eager to discover the latest in travel bags and accessories. Here are the key takeaways from the conversations had and the products observed at the show.
At first glance, it might seem as if the only travel goods on display were four-wheeled, polycarbonate carry-on and full-sized suitcases. Booths housing brands large and small all displayed shelves filled with polycarbonate spinners in every possible airline approved size. Many looked similar to suitcases produced by trendy direct-to-consumer brands (Away) and LVMH’s recently acquired German luggage house (Rimowa). It was not surprising considering the popularity of these two brands and the luggage they produce, which has helped to make four-wheeled, hard case luggage the prevailing trend in the global market.
The brands that bucked this trend stood out. Swedish roof rack maker Thule’s foray into bags and luggage featured a wide range of versatile and complimentary nylon bags, some with only two wheels. The oversized wheels (again, only two) on G-RO’s suitcases seemed to glide up stairs and over rough surfaces with ease. Aleon’s aluminum suitcases looked seemingly indestructible, and Traveler’s Choice’s aptly-named Millennial transparent carry-on was clearly made for millennials eager to show off their stuff.
For travelers who end their trips with more than they started, a few innovative brands exhibited suitcases designed to give extra room in seconds via a variety of compressing and extending mechanisms. Briggs & Riley’s expandable spinners allow one to extend the bag for 22% more space and then compress it back down to its original size. X-Tend’s carry-ons are capable of expanding up to 50%. If your new souvenirs still won’t fit, Fugu’s Rollux expands from a carry-on to a full-size suitcase with just a few clicks.
As more people work remotely and more consumers chase Instagrammable experiences, new types of travelers are emerging who require organizing solutions for frequent, short and specific trips. Designing with this “sprint” traveler in mind, Hook & Albert prominently displayed their garment weekenders, allowing travelers to keep their accessories, suits, and shoes neat, tidy and easily accessible.
For those needing an office on the go, Fugu’s Minilux laptop bag transformed into a desk with a cupholder when placed atop the Rollux. Ruigor’s wide range of bags featured unique compartments like a waterproof exterior pocket for wet umbrellas. VinGarde Valise offered the oenophilia a suitcase with customizable foam inserts guaranteed to keep wine, craft beer, or anything fragile safe.
While a bag only needs a battery pack (or a spot for one) to earn the “smart” epithet, some at the show were smarter than others. In addition to charging cables and exterior charging ports, the smart luggage that really showed its intelligence used its battery pack for more than just mobile charging.
At Swissdigital, battery packs powered massaging pads on backpacks. X-Tend battery packs powered a digital scale and a fingerprint lock capable of storing up to 10 unique fingerprints. The Cowarobot autonomously followed attendees around the show floor. Modobag’s titanium battery powered the rideable carry-on to travel up to 8 miles per hour.
Representatives from specialty luggage stores, department stores and everything in between attended the show. Brands exhibiting, though, didn’t seem as concerned with finding a retailer as the retailers were with finding a brand.
When asked how they intended to sell their luggage on the American market, direct to consumer through their own brand website or on Amazon were by far the most commonly responses. Although, almost all were open to anything should they “find the right partner”. Department stores, especially high-end stores including Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, were mentioned as a preferred channel. A few brands, Briggs & Riley in particular, touted their commitment to supporting local, specialty luggage retailers.
If the Travel Goods Show serves as a window to the global bags and luggage market, then four-wheeled, hard case carry-on and checked suitcases may be here for a while. But as travel continues to become cheaper, easier and more popular, travel goods will continue to thrive, and consumers will perpetually demand new products and solutions to meet their increasingly frequent and specific travel needs.