Share This Article On
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on google
Share on pinterest
Princeton, NJ — The growing trade war between the U.S. and China and the resulting punitive tariffs on U.S. imports of travel goods from China drove costs higher and slowed sales in 2019, according to a new report released by the Travel Goods Association (TGA). Travel goods include luggage, backpacks, travel/sports bags, business cases/computer bags, handbags, totes/duffels, personal leather goods, and luggage locks. TGA estimates that sales of travel goods in the United States hit $32.4 billion in 2019, up 4.0% from 2018.
“Travel goods are price sensitive and deflationary,” explains Michele Marini Pittenger, TGA’s president. “The 25% tariff increase imposed on our industry and our 100,000 American workers by our own government meant that we had to increase prices, and lose sales, or hold the line on prices and take the hit on margin.”
The industry started the year facing 10% punitive tariffs on U.S. imports of travel goods from China. The punitive tariffs increased to 25% on May 10, 2019. 99% of travel goods sold in the U.S. market are imported by an industry comprised primarily of small and medium family-owned businesses and their 100,000 American workers. In 2019, 68.1% of U.S. travel goods imports were imported from China.
“These tariffs are not paid by China,” stated Pittenger, “but by hardworking American families in the form of a hidden tax.” Continued Pittenger, “There is no doubt about it. The trade war hurt us. As a result, our industry was already weakened when COVID-19 hit, bringing both travel and retail to a grinding halt.”
Here’s a quick look at how TGA estimates each of the major travel goods categories performed in 2019:
Brands and retailers attempting to recoup some of their costs drove retail prices for luggage up 5.9% in 2019. Being a very price-sensitive product, those price increases drove sales down 2.6%.
Backpacks continued to be the bright spot in 2019 as backpacks have increasingly become the item of choice by consumers to meet many of their travel goods needs. Sales rose 2.0% despite the fact that prices also rose, increasing 6.0%.
Travel/sports bags sales finally stopped their decline in 2019, actually growing 0.4%, led by growing promotions throughout the year.
Business Cases/Computer Bags
Business case and computer bag sales also stopped their fall, actually growing 1.0% in 2019. But the industry paid a huge price. Costs skyrocketed because of the trade war. And retail prices tanked 9.4% in the face of continued competition from versatile backpacks and totes/handbags with built-in laptop sleeves, the replacement of laptops with smartphones and tablets, and the ongoing casualization of business.
Handbag sales surged 13.5% in 2019, for the industry’s best year since the Great Recession. But that came at a price, a price that was 4.9% lower in 2019. To put all of this in perspective, American women bought 301.4 million handbags in 2019, or almost two handbags, on average, for every female in the United States, from infants to centenarians.
Personal Leather Goods
Sales of personal leather goods increased 2.2% in 2019, with unit prices falling 2.4%.
Luggage locks sales in 2019 tanked, falling 8.8%, even with prices decreasing 5.3%.
For more information, go to TGA’s just released State of the U.S. Travel Goods Market 2005-2019 (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.
“If younger people find out about you it’s either Yelp or Google. Yelp is espe-cially important, that word of mouth is critical. People can do so much now on their phones, and they want some verification that they’re going to have a good experience before they actually physically head out.”
The Cantwells have enlisted another millennial to help with their consumer outreach: influencer Angel Castellanos of the Travel Ambassador, Inc. and Angel’s Travel Lounge (see sidebar). Castellanos has presented multiple travel seminars at Index Urban. “It’s just a matter of get-ting the word out to our customer,” said Jon Cantwell. “I’ve sat through five of them and each time I learn something new, it’s really enjoyable.”
Like van Dooijeweert, the Cantwells chose Shopify to create their website. “Our new Shopify website is almost done. It’s an affordable way for us smaller players to look professional,” said Jon Cantwell. “To have a sale on our website is almost gravy, we invest in our website because a decent percent-age of customers want to know a little bit about you before they come in.”