Business of Design

Unpacking The Draconian Decline in Luggage Sales 

Luggage brands saw a jaw-dropping 80 percent decline in sales because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Download: Luggage brands saw a jaw-dropping 80 percent decline in sales because of the coronavirus pandemic. The world’s largest luggage brand, Samsonite Group, saw a $953.4 million loss in the first six months of 2020, while DTC unicorn Away had to furlough half of its staff after sales plunged by 90 percent. (In September, the brand hosted its first-ever sale to bolster revenue.) Their misery has company: travel and hospitality have been among the hardest-hit sectors by COVID-19, with air travel seeing a 70 percent decline and hotel occupancy plummeting to 20 percent in the U.S. 

The Outlook: In response to the pandemic, both legacy and DTC brands have pivoted to travel accessories, anticipating a renaissance in domestic travel and road trips. Rimowa launched products outside the luggage category for the first time in its 122-year history, including iPhone cases, sunglasses, and handbags. Start-up label Paravel fast-tracked the launch of a beach tote, which sold out, and a belt bag outfitted with compartments for hand sanitizer and masks. Away has released a suite of new products, from backpacks to everyday duffles to fanny packs, all designed for non-air travel. (They will also donate 100 percent of proceeds from a special-edition collaboration with Master & Dynamic to coronavirus relief.)  

In Their Own Words: “If they’re [customers] traveling domestically rather than internationally, or taking fewer trips, they might decide they can spend more on their suitcase,” says Josh Udashkin, general manager North America for Rimowa. “What is clear is that our sales are no longer tied to air travel. There is a whole host of unknowns. The desire to travel is not going anywhere—that much is evident—but the question is whether people may think of travel differently. And perhaps it might even change for the better.” Cuan Hanly, SVP of product design and merchandise at Away, discovered a surprising trend in recent months: an uptick in purchases of bigger suitcases. “People were moving home to their parents,” Hanly says. “They were renting Airbnbs. Our luggage was useful in these moves.”

Surface Says: Fewer hotel stays and reduced airplane travel diminishes the necessity of compact luggage. Let the race to launch a retro steamer trunk begin!   

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