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Luggage Takes Flight

Trends in Luggage & Leather Goods

By Emily Tipping

Form and Function

"Functionality is always the most important aspect of the bag," Mitchell explained. "How much of my stuff can I get in it? And how much can I get back?"

The consummate consumers, American travelers generally come back with more than they left with. That means a bag that can expand with their expanding stuff can be appealing.

For those travelers, Briggs & Riley's 24-inch Expandable Upright from the Transcend collection (right) simplifies things. Available through Incentive Concepts, this bag features a zip-around expansion to provide three more inches of packing space. The upright also features elastic shoe pockets and a zipper garment section that holds three to four hanging items, so the pleased recipient of this bag can easily pack for a three- to six-day trip. It's made with durable, lightweight Tuff-lite fabric, offering relaxed functionality for active leisure travelers.

Despite the desire to expand their space, however, Mitchell said that more limiting, hard-sided luggage has been growing in popularity.

Landry agreed that hard-sided is becoming more popular. "It's a bit of a trend," he said. "It started out as a Pacific-Rim, EMEA thing, and it's really come on kind of strong in the States and is becoming more and more of a category. There's a perception that it's lighter, and it does tend to be. In addition, people believe the hard-sided luggage will protect your clothes and your equipment better."

"One of the things that has surprised us at Samsonite," Mitchell said, "is the newly discovered strength in hard-sided luggage. It's a small percentage of the overall luggage sold, but we've been very surprised at the sell-through. ÖTypically, in the United States, hard-sided

doesn't sell very well. It's a finite packing space, and your average consumer in America always returns with more than they left with. A soft-sided bag lets them do that. A hard-sided case doesn't. And most of us aren't smart enough to pack lighter in two cases to allow room for more when we come back."

For example, the Samsonite Winfield Spinner 20-inch Upright (left) is a new, fashion-forward grouping that offers ABS/Polycarbonate construction for lasting performance. Samsonite's Spinner wheel system allows unmatched ease of mobility, and an interior zip divider creates two separate storage areas. A built-in, TSA-approved lock provides peace of mind for travelers checking a locked case.

"The hard-sided appears to appeal to a younger audience," Mitchell added, explaining that this category is not only more popular with Europeans, but also with those 30 years old and younger. "And if you were at The Motivation Show, there were companies showing some truly exotic-looking product, like leopard print. It's very out-there. There are a lot of niche players out there getting some interesting-looking product."

One of those players is Heys, whose EcoCase Collection combines style with a green approach—which also should be appealing to younger audiences. The EcoCase is made from 100 percent recycled plastic, reducing demand for new materials and resources, while reducing materials that would otherwise be headed for a landfill. The EcoCase Collection is made up of three pieces of Spinner luggage with four wheels, and is durable due to its flexible plastic construction, which absorbs impact. It's not only lightweight, but it also is expandable. It's Heys' first hard-sided luggage to include special "Piggy-Back: straps, making it easier to move around with multiple pieces. Inside, it is fully lined with a built-in divider with a mesh pocket. It also features an internal telescopic handle system with push-button locking.

Another innovation from Heys, the BioCase has created plenty of buzz this year. It was the second-place winner in the TGA's 2009 Product Innovation Awards and was also selected by Motivation Show attendees for the People's Choice Awards as the most innovative new product from among more than 50 products and services on display in the Innovative Products Gallery.

Made of 100 percent polycarbonate, the BioCase is nearly indestructible, protecting belongings inside. In addition, the owner's fingerprint is required to unlock the case. It's available in a 19-inch business case, as well as a 20-inch carry-on luggage piece.

"It's a great example of innovation in luggage," said Peter Cobb, head of TGA's Awards Committee and co-founder and senior vice president of "They've combined function, style and durability with cutting-edge technology."

Not sure whether you prefer hard-sided or soft-sided luggage? How about mixing and matching? You can do just that with the Zero Halliburton Z-FLEX Hybrid Collection (right), available through Earth Gear Corp. It features a synergy of materials, combining a protective polycarbonate shell with the flexibility of ballistic nylon, creating a lightweight and durable travel case. It's available in metallic black and classic Zero Halliburton Silver. Sizes include a 20-inch international carry-on, 22-inch carry-on and business overnight carry-on. And in a testament to its durability, it comes with a lifetime warranty.

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