Feature Article - November/December 2013

On-the-Go Incentives

Trends in Luggage & Travel Goods

By Emily Tipping

When it comes to travel—for business, pleasure or otherwise—how do you pack? Are you a keeper of a master list that includes every item you need for a short or long trip, allowing you to check things off as they go in your carry-on? Or are you more catch-as-catch-can about your packing—just grab and go? Do you arrive at the airport with plenty of extra time, just in case those security lines present a problem? Or do you cut it as close as you can, preferring to spend as little time in the terminal as possible? We all have our own unique travel personalities, whether it's meticulous packing and uber-punctual arrivals, or it's throw it all in a bag, hurry up and go. But no matter which side of the fence you fall on, it's a sure bet that you're happy to take advantage of some of the latest trends in luggage and other travel gear—from lighter weights and better maneuverability to more forward fashion statements and innovative materials. And what's more, the participants in your incentives and rewards programs likely love these new features as well.

Historically, luggage sits among the top three types of merchandise that program participants prefer to receive, which includes watches and electronics as well, said Mike Landry, director of special markets for Tumi. "Luggage has always been a stalwart category in the sense that much of the rest of the world, when they think of incentives, thinks of travel, whether that's sales meetings, group travel, presidents clubs or individual travel. Luggage dovetails very nicely into that."

Norma Jean Knollenberg, CPIM, owner and CEO of Top Brands Inc., agrees. "For many years, luggage items have been at the top of redemption lists," she said. "Almost everyone travels and needs something to carry their clothes in. It really doesn't matter if travel is by plane, train or automobile. The important consideration is to offer a variety that will appeal to everyone."

If you're thinking of adding some luggage items to your merchandise reward mix, now is a good time to start talking to incentive experts. Not only has luggage come a long way in terms of easing things for travelers, but this is also a great time of year to appeal to participants, who likely have travel on their minds.

"November is traditionally the busiest travel month of the year, and your program participants will be looking to ease their transition of being in the air and on the road," said Ken Fishman, purchasing manager for Rymax Marketing Services Inc. "We customarily see a spike in luggage category redemptions in fall and early winter for luggage and travel accessories as participants want to ensure their luggage can handle their travel requirements during this hectic holiday travel season. Now is a good time to review your merchandise rewards assortment and make sure it includes a variety of luggage pieces and a mixture of travel accessories to reward your participants with what they need this season."

Historically, luggage sits among the top three types of merchandise that program participants prefer to receive.

And what your participants need has likely changed a great deal over the past several years as increasing airline fees have driven luggage manufacturers to reduce the weight of their product, as well as provide innovations that make it easier to navigate security lines and hoist bags into overhead bins. Many of these innovations are driving the luggage business in general to higher levels of success, and specific players are seeing business boom.

"The luggage business in general is growing at about 4 percent or 5 percent per year," said Pete Mitchell, director of B-to-B sales for Samsonite LLC. "We're on path to grow 20 percent to 30 percent this year, making it our fourth consecutive year of record growths and profits." Specifically in the B-to-B space, Mitchell said recognition companies and the casino business are doing particularly well.