Since the beginning of time, man has constructed products to carry essential items, beginning with bulky cases made from animal hides and wood. In fact, the term “luggage,” from the verb “to lug,” was coined in the late 1500s. 

Suitcases have come a long way since then, thanks to innovations in materials, designer touches such as colors and monograms, and modern-day demands. For example, airline restrictions and fees have increased the popularity of luggage that is smaller, lighter and more portable. Cultural shifts including more casual and versatile wardrobes, wrinkle-free fabrics and travel-sized toiletries have eased this transition for consumers. 

A much-loved fashion staple for most women, handbags must also meet the demands of present-day lifestyles, especially working women. Just as the apparel industry has introduced clothes that can transition from work to the gym to an evening out, it is necessary for handbags to offer the same versatility. 

Wendy Farrell, director of product marketing for supplier Gemline (PPAI 113948), explains, “We live in an active society where people are constantly on the move. As a result, people are seeking well-thought-out product designs that help keep them organized and prepared for their busy lifestyles.”

“Handbags are becoming both smaller and larger,” adds Terry Scheller, president of New England Leather Accessories, Inc. (PPAI 111529). “The small ones carry the essentials for a party or a quick trip to the grocery store. The small bags fit into the larger ones with plenty of space leftover for papers and folders.”

Hands-free functionality seems to be one solution to the multi-tasking requirement. This includes the popular crossbody style as well as belt bags and wristlets. 

Men are sporting the hands-free look, too, wearing “waist bags” (or fanny packs, if you dare) both as a belt accessory and across the shoulder, reminiscent of the messenger bag. According to the Tassen Museum, the largest museum of bags in the world, this style is a return to the 1500s, when men attached pouches to their belts. This look went the way of the caveman once pockets were invented at the close of the 16th century, but it’s making a comeback.

“Because smartphones and tablets are finally too big to fit in guys’ pockets, the men’s bag is definitely happening,” declares Amy Shih, chief operations officer for supplier Goodhope Bags (PPAI 133341). “Men will start to carry bags in the form of hands-free, crossbody, multifunctional fanny packs or sling packs.”

Bag marketers have also successfully targeted the needs of overscheduled men with the introduction of backpacks that are suitable for the office and practical for the gym and weekend. In many industries and office spaces, specialty backpacks manufactured with high-end materials have made the briefcase look decidedly outdated.

Once sold exclusively to hikers and campers, the backpack has been reinvented and continues to grow in popularity. The Wall Street Journal reports that sales of men’s backpacks increased five percent to $864 million between August 2016 and August 2017.

The trend toward high-end materials and the accompanying perception of promotional products as gifts rather than giveaways is influencing bags in a big way.  As an example, Elliot Goldman, owner of supplier Liberty Bags (PPAI 273140), says they are introducing a revolutionary new bag from their Hardware series that does not stain, even if red wine is spilled on it. “We see a trend in the fact that extreme quality continues to sell,” says Goldman. “There’s been a large uptick in pricier, well-made pieces.”

In the fashion industry, bags have long been an important mark of the wearer’s personality. Looking ahead, consumers will continue to demand stylish options, but retailers should be careful not to prioritize form over function. Both men and women want options that are on-trend, in alignment with their personal brand and are ready for anything.


Channel Your Inner James Bond  With These Luggage Enhancements

The global market for luggage is projected to top $67 billion by 2020, and the
omnipresence of technology is sure to be the next big influence in design. Travel + Leisure magazine outlined the following smart luggage trends for travelers who want the latest in tech.

  • GPS locators so you can track your bags
  • Charging systems for your phone and other devices
  • Weight sensors to help you avoid airline fees
  • Remote locking systems and identity theft capabilities for peace of mind
  • Motorization so you can sit on it while it takes you to your gate


Case Study

Lunchtime Loot
A restaurant supply company was planning its annual company picnic for employees and their families. Every year, the company gives employees a nice gift in the $10 range. This year, the company chose the Dual Compartment Kooler Bag because of its roomy size and the mesh separator.

Each employee was offered a short menu of lunch selections for the picnic. The company then filled the Kooler Bags with the lunches prior to the event. Each employee received their lunch in the bag, which they then brought home as their gift.

The bags were such a hit, the company decided to repeat the order and use the same product for its industry shows.

Source: Hit Promotional Products


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Terry Ramsay is associate editor of PPB.