Editors Picks: Good Baggage

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Bags are an everyday solution. Every consumer, regardless of gender, is looking for a functional bag to fit their lifestyle. Each type of bag serves a different purpose for different wearers and various occasions. For the avid gym-goer, a duffle bag would likely fit their needs, and for the frequent flyer, a carry-on. Tying with writing instruments for the lowest cost per impression of any other promotional product in the U.S., bags are not only useful for the recipient, but for the giver as well. 

For women, the iconic fashion handbag offers a glimpse into the life of the wearer while keeping their personal possessions handy and secure. Sales of women’s handbags represent 65 percent of women's total bag sales and 49 percent of all bag sales in the U.S., according to The NDP Group. While women’s handbag sales decreased by five percent in 2015, sales for bags worn by men saw double-digit growth. Smaller segments of the market like unisex bags, including duffle bags, backpacks and messenger bags, gained popularity and are now in the top growth categories. Bags that combine function with fashion are driving growth in the bag industry. 

In 2018, accessories, the smallest category in the outdoor industry, grew at the fastest rate because of bag sales. Backpack sales increased by four percent, duffle bags increased by six percent and fanny/waist packs grew by 52 percent. “An unexpected comeback, the fanny pack is regaining popularity as consumers embrace its convenient, compact and lightweight qualities,” says Matt Powell, vice president and senior industry advisor, sports, for The NPD Group. “Outdoor brands are breathing new life into the product through water-resistant fabrics, security features and adding ‘hip pack’ to its list of names to go by.”

The athleisure trend continues to influence women’s accessories. In 2019, the sales of leather bags declined while other fabric options found favor with consumers. Although accounting for just 11 percent of women’s bag sales in the U.S., nylon, polyester and cotton drove 90 percent of the growth. “Today, fashion is as much about comfort as it is about personal style, and that is carrying over into the way consumers are accessorizing,” says Beth Goldstein, fashion footwear and accessories industry analyst for The NPD Group. “Women’s bags in new silhouettes and new materials are driving the industry forward.”

As consumers’ priorities shift, fashion transforms to meet new needs. Just as casual fashion and athleisure were hitting their strides in the marketplace, stay-at-home orders and remote working helped cement the popular style into consumers’ everyday dress. Today, consumers are craving ease and convenience. In 2019, functional items such as luggage, backpacks and fanny/waist/chest packs continued to outperform in the accessories market, according to The NDP Group. Fanny, waist and chest packs are also becoming increasingly popular with men, and as gender norms continue to be erased in fashion, more brands will invest in merchandise that can be marketed to a generation that views gender more fluidly. 

While creating products from alternative materials—such as vegan leather, neoprene and other recycled options—is still a priority among consumers, end users are also looking for sustainable models that will leave lasting environmental and societal contributions. Last holiday season, about one-quarter of 25- to 34-year-olds and nearly 30 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds felt that giving gifts that “give back” was more important to them than it was in 2018. 

Promotional bags themselves continue to give back. In 2019, bags were the fourth largest category of products sold at $1.5 billion, according to PPAI 2019 Distributor Sales Volume Estimate. With 50 percent of U.S. consumers owning a promotional bag, bags generate more impressions than any other promotional product in the U.S., according to 2016 Global Advertising Specialties Impressions Study.  

When brainstorming the perfect bag for clients, keep in mind how COVID-19 has changed the way consumers view reusable bags. Reusable bags, such as those used to transport groceries, can carry germs and bacteria if they are not washed properly between uses. In some stores and states like Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Illinois, customers have been banned from using their reusable bags in grocery stores as health experts feared the highly contagious virus would linger on the bags’ surface. On June 22, California's 60-day single-use plastic bag ban expired and the state now gives retailers the option of providing paper or reusable plastic bags or allowing customers to bring in their own reusable bags.

As the summer cools off leaving some vacation plans in the dust, travel-focused bags will remain a bright spot. According to The NDP Group, carry-on luggage sales grew three percent in 2019 as consumers expected to travel before the pandemic. As people feel more comfortable boarding flights, the hands-free functionality of backpacks, fanny packs and credit card cases will give travelers the sense of adventure they’ve been missing.

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Perfect for both children and adults, this non-woven polypropylene Therm-O Snack lunch tote will keep food items hot or cold. Insulated with a zipper closure, end users can carry this tote to work or bring it along for outdoor picnics. With a seven-inch gusset pocket and dual-reinforced 18-inch handles, this lunch bag will soon become an everyday accessory. Available in screen print (shown), ColorVista and Sparkle decoration with glossy, reflective dots.

BAG MAKERS, Inc.  /  PPAI 111408, S11  /  www.bagmakersinc.com

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For employees returning to work, this modern Pierce Computer Tote will do more than protect a laptop. This upscale look, available in trendy gray (shown) or navy with KAPSTON® rivet, features a main zippered compartment with padded sleeve for laptops up to 15 inches, shoulder-length carry handles, an interior organizer, a water bottle pocket and a trolley strap.

BIC Graphic NA  /  PPAI 114187, S13  /  www.bicgraphic.com

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A practical and fashionable way to carry your essentials, the Slater Fanny offers a large main pouch and hidden zipper pocket for added security. This durable polyester fanny pack can be worn around the waist or as a crossbody bag to keep valuables safe and secure while traveling or attending an event. 

Origaudio  /  PPAI 421483, S7  /  www.origaudiopromo.com

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This 14-ounce Heavy-Weight Cotton Grocery Bag makes grocery store trips easier for the user while sharing a company's message. With four sewn-in bottle holders and a poly board bottom insert made of recycled plastic available as an add-on, shoppers will use this tote again and again, reducing plastic and paper bag use. 

American Ad Bag Co.  /  PPAI 111067, S10  /  www.adbag.com

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Style and unique design intersect with the County Line tote. The fishbone pattern cotton webbing and 24-inch woven web, tire track shoulder straps are perfect for an outdoor picnic or a yoga class. The 10-ounce dyed-cotton bag with a natural jute bottom comes in khaki, navy, red, royal blue and aqua (shown). 

Southern Plus  /  PPAI 110918, S6  /  www.southernplus.com

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For bars and restaurants looking to stand out from the typical brown paper bag, the 1 bottle insulted wine bag will keep customers coming back. Businesses that quickly adapted to curbside and carryout will appreciate the bonus of an exterior pocket that allows them to insert a sales flier. The insulated wine bags are offered in three sizes to hold up to three bottles of wine. 

American Ad Bag Co.  /  PPAI 111067, S10  /  www.adbag.com

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Make any brand or logo stand out from the crowd with this bright and colorful tote. The translucent color tote features one main compartment with shoulder-length carry handles in trendy neon colors like this zesty orange or a fashionable black.

BIC Graphic NA  /  PPAI 114187, S13   /  www.bicgraphic.com

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Create a memorable impression for your client’s brand with the Carnival Tote. The unique trapezoid shape is an eye-catcher and clients can fill this bag with brochures and coupons for their next campaign. With black accent piping, a plastic bottom and 18-inch handles, choose from vivid  colors like bright blue, bright pink (shown), grape or lime. Available in screen imprint, ColorVista or Sparkle decoration with glossy, reflective dots. 

BAG MAKERS, Inc.  /  PPAI 111408, S11  /  www.bagmakersinc.com

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For random loose-leaf papers and fragile tablets, give your clients the solution to many end users’ problems with this large document and tablet holder. This 15-inch by 11-inch case is perfect for transporting documents with easy access to contents through the large flap. This case is available in canvas, waxed canvas, ballistic nylon and leather (shown).

Cross Canvas Co., Inc.  /  PPAI 111759, S5  /  www.crosscanvas.com

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Get down to business with this comfortable, stylish and checkpoint-friendly Embarcadero Pack. This multi-purpose 16-pocket backpack will keep your hands free for important things by carrying all your daily necessities—big and small. With dual-side water bottle and accessory holders, you’re sure to never go thirsty, and with a USB port, your devices shouldn’t either. The padded pockets for both tablet-sized devices and most 15-inch laptops allow the user to travel knowing their valuables are protected. Fully adjustable shoulder straps with a sliding sternum strap keeps it securely in and ready for the day’s adventure. With a full-color imprint on the front, the Embarcadero Pack will carry your client’s brand from one place to the next.

Origaudio  /  PPAI 421483, S7  /  www.origaudiopromo.com

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A classic design with well-considered personal electronics organization, this Samsonite Xenon 3.0 Spinner Mobile Office will steer end users in the right direction. This accordion-style suitcase is perfect for clients looking to go above and beyond to welcome employees back to the office. All accessories and files can fit in the zippered main compartment and can be opened 180 degrees to lay flat. The front zippered pocket has a multi-function organizer that fits a 15.6-inch laptop and a 10-inch tablet. Four 360-degree spinner wheels and a retractable, padded handle allow for easy mobility on any surface. Embroidery available. 

Gemline  /  PPAI 113948, S11  /  www.gemline.com

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This retro duffle is the ideal travel companion. This durable 18-ounce dyed canvas bag fits perfectly in overhead compartments and has a front slip pocket for easy access to valuable travel documents. Constructed with deluxe hardware, end users can depend on this duffle to get them places in style. 

Cross Canvas Co., Inc.  /  PPAI 111759, S5  /  www.crosscanvas.com

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The bag market, boosted by growing legislation to ban single-use plastic bags and the “green wave,” has been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. To protect workers and customers, retail and grocery industries have discouraged, and even banned, customers from using reusable bags from fear of spreading coronavirus. While sales for branded tote bags have fallen during the pandemic, the need for insulated bags to support restaurant takeout and delivery orders has only increased. 

With people reluctant to leave the house during the pandemic, more Americans are ordering delivery. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, 51 percent use delivery services to purchase meals from casual dining restaurants and 26 percent order takeout at least once a week. The insulated bag, or thermal bag, was invented by Ingrid Kosar in 1984 to keep pizzas hot when delivering them to customers’ homes or offices. However, pizza no longer dominates the takeout and delivery business. Delivery traffic outside of pizza has risen 33 percent since 2012. 

Due to COVID-19, online ordering has become the primary source of revenue for many restaurants. From February to April, the number of restaurants actively using Online Ordering with Upserve, a restaurant management software, increased 169 percent along with an 840-percent increase in weekly sales through online ordering. Restaurants and delivery drivers will need branded, insulated bags to keep food hot and fresh. 

Insulated bags are now commonly used, and everyday consumers can experience multilayered insulation in their lunch boxes or bags. Approximately 18 million kids in the U.S. bring their lunch to school, and nearly half (49 percent) of people bring their lunch to work. Before the 1980s, adults and children carried their lunches in metal lunch boxes. One hundred years earlier, factory workers brought their lunch from home in metal pails and by the early 1900s, children were carrying lunch to school in metal lunch pails or boxes. The first decorated lunch box debuted in 1935 featuring Mickey Mouse and the market exploded in the 1950s with cartoon and TV characters. The popularity and success of lunch boxes couldn’t be ignored and major companies like McDonalds, Coca-Cola and Kellogg’s began putting their logos and mascots on promotional lunch boxes by the 1970s. 

By 1985, metal lunch boxes were replaced by safer plastic lunch boxes. In the 1990s, plastic lunch boxes with eye-catching covers that depicted scenes from popular movies, like Star Wars, and popular cartoon characters, like the Ninja Turtles and Care Bears, became popular. Thermos, a primary manufacturer of these plastic lunch boxes, made an estimated $40 million in sales every year during this time. Today’s lunch boxes are insulated and soft-sided, and lunch box manufacturers also use safer materials like neoprene, canvas and polyester. 

Food safety for businesses and consumers is a top priority. For deliveries, road trips and regular workdays, treat your clients with an insulated bag.

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Kristina Valdez is associate editor of PPB. 

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