SIC 3161

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category covers establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing luggage of leather or other materials. The luggage industry produces a wide variety of products, including suitcases, briefcases, attache cases, hand luggage, tote bags, trunks, and occupational cases. Materials used in addition to leather include plastics, nylon, cotton, linen, and metals. Many products use a combination of these materials. Construction methods include sewing, molding, and laminating.

Industry Snapshot

Luggage shipments decreased steadily during the late 1990s and early 2000s, rising to $639 million in 2005. The terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, had a significant impact on the travel industry, including luggage, but by the mid-2000s, the United States was seeing an upswing in number of people traveling.

The upswing was short-lived. When the economy took a turn for the worse in mid-2008, and the unemployment rate skyrocketed, airlines experienced empty seats from pleasure and business travelers by the first quarter of 2009. In addition, travelers were foregoing that extra checked luggage and traveling lighter, thus making fewer luggage purchases. Sales of suitcases and garment bags were valued at $950 million in 2009.

Background and Development

Luggage, which is defined as a product designed to carry items by hand from place to place, has been around in some form or another since the beginning of recorded history. Egyptians packed precious objects into casket-shaped trunks and buried them in tombs with their kings and queens. In those early days, separate trunks or chests were used to transport different types of items. For example, there were jewelry, linen, and wardrobe cases. This practice endured for centuries and continued to be popular with those who had no need to travel lightly in the twenty-first century.

The type of luggage used was determined by the mode of travel. When traveling by foot, for example, a simple sack was often sufficient. If beasts of burden were available, items were boxed or bagged and secured atop the animal. Travel by ship or barge made it possible to use large trunks and chests. The more money one had, the grander the style of travel and the type of luggage. "Heaven only knows how many people it took to get Cleopatra's barge up the Nile, Marco Polo to China, or Mrs. Vanderbilt across the Atlantic," wrote Diane Sustendal in Showcase. "It's only in recent years that hopping the Concorde with a single bag has become a status way to travel. Prior to that, three or more matched pieces of luggage lined up at a dock, train station, or airport said something about the status of the traveler."

Whole groups of people, she noted, have been identified by the types of luggage they carried. The "Casket Girls of Louisiana," young women sent from France to the colonies (now the United States) to marry, carried their belongings in caskets. Carpetbaggers got their name from the bags in which they carried cash and clothing to the South following the Civil War. "Old Saddlebags" referred to the early Pony Express riders who carried mail in such pouches on the backs of horses. Some types of luggage got their names from modes of transportation, including the coach bag, train case, flight kit, Pullman case, and steamer trunk. The luggage lexicon has also been affected by war. British soldiers during World War I had their "kit bag." U.S. G.I.s packed their belongings in a "duffle bag" or "furlough bag."

The luggage industry bubbled with new ideas after World War II. Many materials developed for the wartime effort were put to use in the industry, including rip-stop nylon, fiberglass, plastics, simulated fabric, leather, and aluminum. Manufacturers learned to design products that were durable, yet light enough to meet airplane travel requirements. Luggage became available in three categories: constructed or molded luggage; semi-constructed, with such features as side-zipper entry and compartments for easy packing; and soft luggage, which is lightweight and collapsible.

Color added a fashion statement previously missing from luggage. Fashionable women travelers could choose from such colors as bright red, pale blue, pink, and cream, while men had gray, navy, forest green, and burgundy as alternatives to the more conservative black or brown. In the late 1960s, the colors of luggage mimicked fashion colors of hot pink, neon yellow and orange, and bright blue.

By the 1970s, with the idea of space travel no longer a distant reality, luggage resembling spacesuit fabrics first appeared. During that same time, "designer luggage" became the vogue, and luggage sported designer logos. As airplane travel became faster and more efficient, travelers began placing a higher priority on speed. Manufacturers recognized this and devoted more of their attention to carry-on luggage, which permitted passengers to save time by avoiding check-in lines and baggage claim areas. The Mac Pac by Casecraft Incorporated illustrated this trend. This European-styled set consisted of a three-suit garment bag, a four-zipper expandable boarding case, and a ten-inch grooming kit.

In the 1980s, an era known for conspicuous consumption, customers demanded that their luggage demonstrate their wealth, status, and personal taste. They looked for classic styling, quality, and high-fashion touches. Leather, tweeds, and stripes were big sellers. For example, Henry Rosenfeld Travelware introduced several new tweeds and leather designs in 1988. One line of luggage featured interchangeable sets. Popular colors included earth tones, blue-black, burgundy, melon, pumpkin, olive green, and deep gold.

Responding to the consumers' increasing interest in quality, name-brand luggage, vendors introduced luggage with better fabrics and more features, such as zippers, pockets, and compartments to hold items such as shirts, hair dryers, running shoes, and tennis racquets. Peters Bag Corporation introduced a Sasson Executive Style Luggage set in 1989, which included a garment bag with full front zippered pocket, adjustable shoulder strap, boarding bag with dual zipper opening, front and side zipper pockets, and a utility kit with a fully lined interior and two-way zipper.

Business Cases.
Attache cases or briefcases have been around as long as people have called on clients. Scribes and physicians may have been the first to use some form of business case. Blacksmiths, cobblers, carpenters, seamstresses, musicians, and artists used bags, boxes, and small cases to transport the tools of their trade. The attache, with its hard sides and box-like construction, is a direct descendant of an artist's paint box and the scribe's writing box. Early coverings designed to protect books, letters, sketches, and legal briefs were forerunners of today's portfolios or briefcases.

Throughout the twentieth century, the functions and appearance of the business case changed frequently and sometimes dramatically. While leather business cases remained popular, more choices than ever before cropped up, including molded cases of plastic or metal, fashion cases, canvas cases, and cases made of exotic skins. In the late 1980s, R.F. Kilpatric and Associates even introduced a wooden briefcase from Sweden, available in natural wood and a mahogany color. Briefcases that doubled as luggage also made their appearance.

Like luggage, business cases eventually became available in a variety of colors. Gray, burgundy, tan, forest green, even red, white, and blue became acceptable options for business executives. Such features as contrasting trim, gleaming or burnished hardware, detachable shoulder straps, and retractable handles also became available. Compartments for holding pens, business cards, calculators, checkbooks, cellular phones, computers, and mini-televisions were added to many of the new designs, as were sleeves to accommodate portfolios, notepaper, computer readouts, legal pads, agendas, and reports.

In the United States, 230 establishments claimed luggage manufacturing as their primary occupation in the mid-2000s; the highest number of establishments (46) was in California. New York had 25, and Texas had 13.

The largest industry segment in terms of shipment value in the mid-2000s was luggage with a leather or mostly leather outer surface ($79 million), followed by fabric suitcases ($30 million), and suitcases made of vinyl or other materials ($5 million). Business cases of leather or mostly leather had a shipment value of $13 million that year. Total industry shipments in 2005 reached $639 million, compared to a low of $492 million in 2003.

After two of the worst years ever for the travel industry due to the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, the industry almost completely recovered by early 2005. However, due to new restrictions on weight of luggage and tighter security in U.S. airports, Americans' luggage needs changed, and producers worked to meet the new demands. For example, Samsonite introduced a line of lighter-weight bags as well as a collection that was specially designed to fit into overhead spaces on airplanes.

Luggage manufacturers turned to more fashionable bags to increase sales in the mid-2000s. While emphasizing the functionality of suitcases and bags, producers added color and designer-type extras. According to Henry Kim of Olympic Luggage, the trend for color in luggage was enormous in 2004 and was expected to continue throughout the mid- to late 2000s. Kim said in an HFN article, "Business is picking up. It seems like the whole movement toward color and fashion has given it a boost." Women were the main target for the new colored bags, although colors such as khaki and olive and extras such as stripes were popular with male travelers who looked to carry something other than the traditional black bag.

Other innovations in the luggage industry in the mid-2000s were features that made suitcases and bags more convenient and easy to use. For example, EZ-Swany introduced a suitcase with four wheels that could be "walked" instead of pulled, and Atlantic Luggage came out with a case that could be converted from a two-wheel case to a four-wheel case/luggage cart that could hold up to 200 more pounds with the push of a button.

Current Conditions

Close to 600 establishments were primarily engaged in manufacturing luggage of leather or other materials in 2008, with industry-wide employment of 10,255 workers and a product value of $367.8 million. California, New York, and Florida were home to the majority of luggage manufacturers.

Luggage manufacturers shipped $133.3 million in products; clothing and apparel carrying cases manufacturers shipped $39.8 million; manufacturers of carrying cases, not elsewhere classified, shipped $111.9 million; and manufacturers of traveling bags shipped $17.4 million. Musical instrument cases manufacturers shipped $24.1 million in products and manufacturers of briefcases shipped $15.3 million in goods.

"The number one trend in the industry right now is about [being] lightweight," Alan Krantzler, vice president of product management for Tumi Luggage noted in the Washington Times in July 2009, adding that "It's always been a consumer demand, but it has become increasingly important."

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 20 of the largest U.S. airlines reported lost or destroyed luggage fell by one-third in 2008 compared to the previous year. In addition, major airlines lost 1.3 million fewer bags in 2008, as a result of fewer pieces of luggage lost and passengers traveling lighter, fewer new luggage purchases were likely to result. Other challenges that faced luggage manufacturers were related to the ongoing economic downturn that translated into a slowdown in domestic travel.

Industry Leaders

Samsonite Corp., headquartered in Denver, Colorado, is the world's leading manufacturer of luggage. Its brand names include Samsonite and American Tourister. Samsonite was founded in 1910 as the Shwayder Trunk Manufacturing Company. It was not until 1966 that the company operated under the name Samsonite. From a one-room business near downtown Denver with 10 employees, Samsonite grew into a network of 30 manufacturing and distribution centers with 5,000 employees.

Samsonite established its reputation by producing a product that was extremely durable. The company's original slogan ("Strong enough to stand on") was first illustrated by a picture of founder Jess Shwayder, his father, and three of his brothers standing on a plank that rested on a Shwayder hardcase. Samsonite became famous in the 1980s with its television commercial featuring a gorilla throwing around Samsonite luggage, emphasizing the durability of the product. In the twenty-first century, Samsonite made hardside as well as softside luggage. Hardside luggage is made by the molding and assembly of plastic components, using either vacuum forming or injection molding techniques. Samsonite's softside luggage involves the manufacturing of hand-assembled luggage made of synthetic fiber materials and steel or plastic frames. The company's hardside luggage sales continued to grow in the mid-2000s, particularly in the European market. The company experienced a 17 percent increase in sales between 2005 and 2006. Samsonite was the leading manufacturer of hardside luggage in the world, holding 900 patents worldwide for its luggage designs, and was the parent company of the number two brand of luggage, American Tourister.

Samsonite Corp., of Mansfield, Massachusetts, agreed to be acquired by European buyout firm, CVC Capital Partners Ltd. for an estimated $1.1 billion in July 2007. According to an article published in Denver Post, "The company's sales have struggled as trends shifted toward soft-sided luggage and as travel dipped following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001." Then, in 2009, the retail unit of Samsonite filed for bankruptcy protection.

Another industry leader was the Hartmann Luggage Company of Lebanon, Tennessee, which was sold by Brown-Foreman Corporation to Clarion Capital Partners in April 2007. Hartmann's revenue in 2006 was estimated to be $12.9 million. After the sale, Hartmann began to update its traditional wares with more innovative and fashionable luxury goods. One new feature on some suitcases was a small, clear, zipped bag that met new airport security regulations for carry-on items.

Coach, Inc. of New York City also produced luggage in addition to other accessories and had sales of $3.2 billion in 2009.

© COPYRIGHT 2018 The Gale Group, Inc. This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan. All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group. For permission to reuse this article, contact the Copyright Clearance Center.

News and information about Luggage

Wipo Publishes Patent of Anhui Cowarobot for "Three-in-One Luggage Lock Having One Key for Releasing and Locking" (Chinese Inventors)
US Fed News Service, Including US State News; February 19, 2018; 517 words
...published on Feb. 15.Title of the invention: "THREE-IN-ONE LUGGAGE LOCK HAVING ONE KEY FOR RELEASING AND LOCKING."Applicants...World Intellectual Property Organization: "A three-in-one luggage lock having one key for releasing and locking, the lock comprises...
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US Fed News Service, Including US State News; February 19, 2018; 511 words
...of the invention: "RFID RADIO FREQUENCY ANTENNA APPLIED TO LUGGAGE CLASSIFICATION MANAGEMENT."Applicants: Yi'er Tian (CN...Disclosed is an RFID radio frequency antenna applied to luggage classification management, comprising a radio frequency antenna...
Large Luggage Can Now Also Ride for Free in Sofia's Public Transport
Sofia News Agency; February 19, 2018; 269 words
The ticket for transporting large luggage with public transport in Sofia may be dropped. Currently bags, suitcases, packets should be charged if the sum of their height...
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...Aeroflot will be tightening controls on hand luggage at Sheremetyevo airport and all other...baggage for registration, including hand luggage and additional items carried at no extra...excess of the free baggage and hand-luggage allowance. A list of all these items...
Aeroflot Improves Regulations on Carrying Musical Instruments as Hand Luggage
States News Service; February 14, 2018; 654 words
...instruments that can be carried as hand luggage from 115 to 135 cm (total combined dimensions...musical instrument is to be carried as hand luggage, the instrument will be the only piece of hand luggage allowed in the cabin. Aeroflot's updated...
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Ic + 70 Series Production Project - Purchase of Luggage Holders for Multipurpose Full Truck
Mena Report; February 13, 2018; 440 words
Contract notice: ic + 70 series production project - purchase of luggage holders for multipurpose full truck This contract is divided into lots: no Deposits and guarantees required: the contracting...
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The Washington Post; February 4, 2018; 700+ words
...After Delta Air Lines lost Dan Collins's luggage on a recent flight to Lihue, Hawaii...And when they didn't show up at the luggage carousel in Kauai, Collins felt like...than airlines are willing to admit. When luggage disappears, passengers are often pulled...

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