Ever had a luggage breakdown when your trolley bag’s wheels broke or your suitcase’s zippers got jammed with sand and salt pushing into it? Know how to choose your luggage and avoid baggage blues
The Covid-19 pandemic, which brought with it home confinement and stringent travel restrictions, had decimated the demand for bags and luggage. But with cases on the ebb, marriages and travel on the upswing, the Indian luggage market seems to be making a comeback, propelled largely by booming e-commerce, nationwide sales networks of prominent brands and revenge travel by fellow Indians.
Luggage and handbags have, over the recent years, managed to shed their traditional practical tag and have evolved as lifestyle products. The demand for brand names has grown, as people are slowly realising the benefits of branded luggage over poor Chinese-made or unbranded luggage. Says Anindya Dutta, Managing Director VIP Industries Ltd: “Today customers are looking for luggage that becomes an extension of their persona and goes beyond utility.” The Indian consumer is veering towards global trends and preferences. Says Dutta: “There has been a shift towards hard luggage during the past few years. Possibly the pandemic has fuelled it for its perceived ease of sanitisation. The new-age materials used in hard luggage are lighter, available in vivid colours and flamboyant print options, and have captured the imagination of the Indian millennial traveller. Gone are the days when the consumers would either buy a black or a blue piece. Our fastest sellers today are aqua, peach, burnt orange, teal and dark coral colours.”
Whether it’s trolley bags, suitcases, luggage bags, duffel bags, polycarbonate or Nylon-based strolleys, handbags, backpacks, there are a host of brands to choose from. The popular brands include Samsonite, VIP, Skybags, Safari, American Tourister, Aristocrat, Carlton, Tommy Hilfiger and a host of others. Says Indiver Rastogi, President & Group Head-Global Business Travel, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd: “C-suite travellers have always opted for premium brands–both for design, functionality and durability and as a style statement. While black remains a favourite, young working professionals and millennials aren’t shy of opting for eclectic colours—and well, this certainly helps in spotting one’s baggage on the carousel!”
The Indian luggage market in 2021 has been valued at around $980 million, according to TechSci Research, a research-based management consulting firm. As per its research, suitcases are most popular in India, followed by duffel bags, as Indian families are often large and tend to travel heavy. However, the younger generation is more interested in travel and adventure, and this is driving the demand for hands-free and hassle-free luggage. This trend is projected to drive bag manufacturers to create a variety of scratch-resistant, water-resistant, and convenient bags and backpacks.
Luggage wheelers are classified based on size–small (115 cm), medium (150-152 cm), large (158 cm). Another differentiator is hard or soft luggage. Hard luggage bags have a tough exterior shell that gives them a defined structure. However, it’s much easier to cram things into a soft suitcase and it also tends to fit easier into the trunk of taxis, overhead bins, under the bed on a cruise, and tons of other places you’ll encounter on your trip. Plus, soft luggage has a lot of outer storage options and pockets galore and is a faithful companion in-flight and at terminals when you want quick access to your documents, reading material, mobile devices, water bottle, glasses, tissues, etc. However, fabric bags and soft suitcases tend to absorb whatever’s thrown at them, be it smells, spills and stains.
The market for luggage has been segmented into four cohorts such as those buying for weddings, leisure, business trips and students travelling abroad. Luggage makers say they are seeing a huge revival in marriage-led buying in the heartland states, which has spiked the demand for large bags. Since early July, a large number of students have been coming to buy luggage as they prepare to leave for the US, Canada, Australia for higher studies. The holiday segment has begun to see green shoots of revival since July as consumers have started making plans after taking their vaccination jabs.
Brand Safari has introduced some bright colours such as turquoise blue, bright red. Its cabin-size wheeler costs Rs 4,750 while the large one is for Rs 7,750. VIP manufactures bags from economy to premium across brands such as Aristocrat, Sky bags, VIP and Carlton.
Says a VIP spokesperson: “Our price points begin from sub-Rs 2,000 to our peak offerings in Carlton which start at Rs 14,000 for cabin-size luggage. We have been quite aggressive in our new launches this season and are launching over 30 new products in the first half of the current financial year. The new offerings are aimed at increasing convenience and meeting the heightened safety needs of the consumers in post Covid travel. Our offerings in the VIP brand include luggage with anti-viral covers, luggage with a built-in laptop section for those consumers who like to be on ‘workcations’.”
Samsonite, a favourite among the niche urban consumers, has products in the premium category priced at over Rs 10,000, and a mass brand American Tourister. Its spokesperson says, “We recently launched our Black Label series. The small one with 7 kg capacity is for Rs 24,500, medium (15 kg) which is used for domestic travel is for Rs 27,500 and large one for international travel (23 kg) is for Rs 29,500. We also have a new Minter Collection with suspension wheel, double zip, shock absorbing wheel etc.”
French brand Delsey offers stylish options, with a soft luggage or duffel bag of size 64×32 cm priced at Rs 6,500 and Ballistic Nylon fabric 36×69 cm coming for Rs 10,500. Says Vivek Kamat, Mumbai based management consultant: “The best part is the easy running wheels–-my Delsey spinner bag has four easy-running double wheels that are quiet and smooth to use. I’ve rolled these wheels over London’s cobbled streets, Morocco’s paths, and India’s alleyways. They’ve never come loose or acted up.”
Luggage has been purchased primarily at traditional brick-and-motor set-ups such as dealer outlets, company-owned stores and franchisees. The growing convenience of online shopping has led to a major shift in consumer preferences for the purchase of travel bags and other luggage through e-commerce platforms, such as Amazon, eBay, Flipkart, Myntra.
Factors to check
There’s so much to consider when shopping for luggage. The size and style, material and durability of the luggage are all important factors to think about.
Choosing a colour: This is the easiest task. Says a sales executive at Delsey showroom at Connaught Place: “Most Indian buyers still prefer the conventional black and blue whereas foreigners go for offbeat options that stand out on the conveyor belt, and help you identify your luggage quickly. But then, of course, you must choose a colour you don’t get tired of very easily.”
Material: Polycarbonate is strong, while Makrolon Polycarbonate is stronger but more expensive. A cabin trolley bag with polycarbonate costs Rs 14,500 while Makrolon polycarbonate one is valued at Rs 23,800 and comes with fingerprint lock, weighing scale, USB option and a replacement warranty of 10 years.
Says Sumit Jaiswal, a 50-year-old Delhi-based employee of the Airport Authority of India, “Just as you travel, your baggage also travels–and under much harsher conditions. Being pushed and pulled, luggage is subjected to temperature variations, pressure, weight and what not. Always opt for sturdy bags and spend well on getting the best quality of luggage.”
Wheels: These are the first thing to break. After all, the right luggage wheels can make getting around with your baggage so much easier and less cumbersome. There are two different types of wheels: in-line skate wheels and spinner wheels. A spinner wheel is attached to a suitcase and is able to move 360 degrees quite freely. Most suitcases with in-line wheels will have two or three of these wheels on one side, along with some sort of stopper that allows the bag to stand upright when it isn’t being carried. The distinguishing characteristics of these wheels are that they’re made of a flexible polyurethane material and are recessed into the suitcase itself.
Zippers: These break easily too. If possible, zip and unzip all the zippers on a piece of luggage you plan to buy. If they are stiff when new, don’t be so sure that they will improve with use. Besides ease of use, consider the stitching that holds the zippers in place. Is it reinforced? And what is the zipper itself made of? While metal might seem sturdier, newer luggage models use coil zippers made of nylon that are resistant both to the elements and to stretching. Low-quality luggage zippers could break easily, putting the luggage owner in an awkward situation.
Last but not the least, travel light by weight and volume, both. Says Thomas Cook’s Rastogi, “Most business travellers today prefer travelling light and hence a small strolley with a laptop insert/attachment that fits cabin specifications is the go-to option. Some of the top baggage challenges include not taking into account reduced or zero-weight allowance of low-cost airlines, more so on a low-cost connecting flight that follows a full-service one in which the baggage allowance is higher. In case duty-free airport shopping is on your to-do list, carrying a small strolley is very convenient, given the terminal distances one has to cover at most international airports.”
So bigger is not always better. Learn to take less and you will save time and money, all the way around.
Table: Indicative price list of some leading luggage brands
|Brand||Price range (Rs)||Brand||Price range (Rs)|
Travel Bags: 1,38,700-1,60,400
Duffle & Tote Bags: 8,081-45,969
Travel Bags: 1,37,166-3,67,013
Duffle Bags: 1,900-4,400
Duffle Bags: 3,550-8,300
Duffle Bags: 1,199-15,999
Duffle Bags: 3,798-6,398
Source: TechSci Research