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Travel Goods Association Releases State of the U.S. Travel Goods Market 2001-2012; Sales Improve in 2012, But At What Price?

Princeton, NJ — Travel goods sales jumped in 2012, but at a price, according to a new report released today by the Travel Goods Association (TGA). Travel goods are defined as luggage, backpacks, travel/sports bags, business cases/computer bags, handbags, personal leather goods, and luggage locks. TGA estimates that sales of travel goods in 2012 returned to pre-recession levels, with U.S. consumers spending an estimated $25.5 billion in 2012 on travel goods, a rise of 20.2% from 2011.

Those numbers don't tell the whole story, however, as volume sales in 2012 also increased, but at a much smaller rate — 6.8% over 2011 — meaning higher prices made up the difference.

"American consumers reignited their love affair with travel goods, in 2012," explains Michele Marini Pittenger, TGA's President.

While sales in most travel goods segments achieved significant gains in 2012, sales lagged for luggage and briefcases/computer cases. Commented Pittenger, "Consumers were much more willing to buy more of the so-called "fun" travel goods in 2012 — handbags, smartphone and tablet covers, backpacks — but only bought what they had to when it came core travel goods, like luggage and computer bags."

And, while certainly welcome news, the higher prices consumers were willing to pay across the board in 2012 presented a double-edged sword for the industry.

"U.S. travel goods firms offered consumers not only value and quality in 2012, they also gave them excitement and variety," noted Pittenger. "The result was a winning formula with consumers willing to pay more, not only for the right product, but also for the new and exciting product."

"But," cautioned Pittenger, "rising prices in today's economy does not necessarily translate into higher margins for the industry. Costs continue to go up throughout the supply chain, meaning that increases at the cash register in many cases are only a reflection of the cost increases born by our members."

Concluded Pittenger, "I remain cautiously optimistic that the market will continue to grow in 2012." Here's a quick look at how TGA estimates each of the major travel goods categories performed in 2012:

Luggage sales lagged in 2012 as the pent-up demand for new luggage experienced in 2011 fizzled and rising airfares took their toll. According to TGA estimates, luggage unit sales in 2012 slipped 1.5% by volume. On the other hand, unit sales shot up 11.9% by value. This growth was driven by an increasing willingness by consumers to buy the right piece of luggage, not the cheapest. As a result, the average unit price for luggage increased 13.7% in 2012.

Backpacks were still high on consumers' shopping lists in 2012, but growth slowed from significant gains made in 2011. With backpacks continuing to penetrate untraditional markets in travel and business, unit sales of backpacks increased 3.2% by volume and 8.9% by value in 2012. With Americans buying a whopping 133.4 million backpacks in 2012, unit prices continued to recover, increasing 5.5% for the year.

Travel/Sports Bags
Travel/sports bags — from "freebies," or promotional bags, to new variations on the duffel bag — continued to be popular in 2012 as more consumers chose travel bags for non-traditional uses such as travel and business. TGA estimates that unit sales of travel/sports bags in 2012 grew 8.2% and dollar sales grew 28.8%. The increasing popularity of travel bags led average unit prices to jump 19.0% in 2012.

Business Cases/Computer Bags
Unit sales of business cases and computer bags suffered, down 3.4% in 2012 as consumers increasingly looked to non-traditional travel goods — backpacks, travel bags — for work. However, with the job market stabilizing, those who did buy again bought the right product versus the cheapest product, pushing the average unit price for business cases and computer bags up 12.0% in 2012.

They just couldn't stay away. While still nowhere near pre-recession sales, Americans reversed gears from 2011 and began to rekindle their interest in handbags in 2012. TGA estimates that unit sales of handbags grew 8.3%, dollar sales increased 18.4%, and average unit prices increased 9.3% in 2012. To put these numbers in perspective, Americans bought an incredible 252.2 million handbags in 2012. In other words, every female in the U.S. above the age of 14, on average, bought two handbags in 2012.

Personal Leather Goods
The rise of tablets joined ever-growing smartphone sales to drive up sales of personal leather goods in 2012, with TGA estimating unit sales up 5.4% and dollar sales up 17.7% during the period. And with the growing view of covers as the new "fashion" item, as well as something needed to protect their expensive electronics, people were willing to pay, driving average unit prices up 11.6% in 2012.

Luggage Locks
Luggage lock sales seemed to finally hit bottom, and even recover slightly in 2012. TGA estimates that unit sales of luggage locks in 2012 grew 3.6% and dollar sales rose 4.4%. As a result, luggage lock prices continued to reverse course, with average unit prices growing a modest 0.8% in 2012.

For more information, go to TGA's just released State of the U.S. Travel Goods Market 2001-2012 Report (PDF format) or contact TGA at 877-842-1938, x-702 to learn more about the latest trends in the U.S. travel goods market.

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