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Travel is Back: What Does it Mean for Luggage?

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Luggage sales globally were heavily impacted by the pandemic, as travel halted. This resulted in a 39% decline in value sales and 35% in volume sales in 2020. As COVID-19 restrictions eased in 2021, travel returned, and luggage sales rebounded. However, in 2022, inflationary pressures, the war in Ukraine and continued restrictions in China hampered the full recovery, bringing into question whether the industry will return to pre-pandemic levels as initially expected.

Despite a strong rebound, global sales of luggage remain below pre-pandemic levels

Global retail value sales in 2022 remained 20% below pre-pandemic levels despite double-digit growth in 2021 and more than moderate growth in 2022. However, most of the growth observed over the last two years was driven by price increases, not by demand recovery, as sales in volume terms (units) remained 24% below those of 2019.

Some regions recovered faster than others, North America being the strongest, with sales in 2022 already 18% higher than pre-pandemic

Source: Euromonitor International

 Eastern Europe, on the other hand, posted the worst performance, with sales in 2022 38% lower than in 2019.World Luggage Sales

Although the pandemic impacted the overall luggage industry severely, luxury brands were more resilient, and outperformed the overall industry. Faster recovery in 2021 and 2022 will help the luxury segment to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024, while full recovery for the overall industry will not be seen until 2025.

The long-awaited return of Chinese travellers is happening, but not as expected

After the removal of all COVID-19 restrictions in early 2023 in China, optimism increased among fashion players, as China plays a key role, not only for its domestic consumption but also for the high levels of outbound spending by Chinese travellers, especially for the luxury fashion industry.

But ongoing real estate market problems spark concerns over the stability of China’s financial system, with the risk of a deeper downturn for the Chinese economy. Weakening growth can have significant implications for global businesses, bringing uncertainty back.

Top destinations for spending by Chinese travellers are also expected to change over the forecast period. Pre-pandemic, the US was the main destination for Chinese tourist spending, but in the coming years, neighbouring countries like Thailand, Japan and Hong Kong will benefit from rising Chinese demand, pushing the US market down in the ranking to fifth position.Top 10 Outbound Destinations from China

The type of products Chinese spend on when travelling abroad is also set to change over the forecast period, and although these travellers are expected to destinate 31% of their spending on shopping by 2028, lodging and activities will steal some share over the forecast period. Further supporting this shift, the percentage of Chinese consumers choosing shopping as a desired feature when planning their future holiday travels has dropped two percentage points since 2021 to 8% in 2023, according to Euromonitor’s Voice of the Consumer: Travel Survey 2023.

Renewed travel needs call brands to adapt their offering

As duration, purpose and mode of transport continue to evolve, the industry is tasked to innovate to respond effectively to consumers’ changing travel needs. From carry-ons (and backpacks) gaining popularity, to larger suitcases for longer stays, to bags that suit specific modes of transport, luggage brands need to invest in helping consumers get the travel experiences they desire.

Changing restrictions and fares have forced consumers to rethink their luggage needs. For example, due to growing fees for checked baggage, consumers have shifted to carry-on luggage, while weight and size restrictions and increased fees charged by low-cost airlines for carry-ons have favoured sales of smaller products, such as duffel bags or handbags.US Interest in carry on luggage

Changing needs will favour convenient products that help consumers save time or money, but also those that align with their lifestyles. Smart luggage, lightweight materials, sustainable materials and aesthetically pleasing – Instagrammable – products will be amongst those preferred.

This new landscape encourages collaboration between luggage brands, travel companies and hospitality services to create a seamless and enriching journey for each traveller, where every aspect, from the luggage they carry to the moments they cherish, contributes to a truly memorable experience.

Read our report, The Return of Travel and its Impact on Luggage Recovery, for more analysis on travel and luggage trends.

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