Samsonite luggage keeps going with innovation

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The top value brand on the market in department stores and leather goods stores, Samsonite celebrates its 100th anniversary this year and continues to develop, building on its assets : the power of innovation, advertising force and a vast multi-brand distribution network with which it forms partnerships. A look at specifics with Mr. Damien Mignot, General Manager for France.

What is Samsonite’s current structure?

A member of the CVC group, Samsonite remains a key world player in the luggage sector. The company has more regions in which it works are: Europe, Asia and the Americas. All regions work autonomously for better adaptation to local consumer and distribution characteristics. We manufacture in our 3 factories, one in Oudenaarde, Belgium, the second in Szekszard, Hungary and the third in Nasik, India. In all, we produce 7000 units per day. The fact that we own manufacturing tools in an asset in terms of reactivity, as well as for the ability to provide real innovations, especially in more technical areas. We also have out-sourcing partners in Asia. As for logistics, since 1966, when Samsonite was located in Europe, they are based in Oudenaarde, Belgium, which delivers to more than 12000 points of sale across Europe. Finally, customer service for France is handled by our own repair centre, centralized on our transporter’s premises in Mouscron, Belgium. Depending on the case, there is a 2 to 3 week waiting period.

Can you give us some figures for France?

In France, our turnover for 2009 surpassed 40 million euros, accounting for 5% of Samsonite’s worldwide turnover at 1.2 billion dollard (figures for 2008). We do not export from France, other European countries receive deliveries from our headquarters in Oudenaarde. France is the second European country behind Italy.

How do you organize creation?

We work with a team of in-house designers who share the territory between Belgium and Italy. For some developments, we form innovative partnerships with brands from very different universes as we did most recently with Mc Laren. We have also worked with some of the biggest names in design and fashion such as Philippe Starck, Marc Newson, Matthew Williamson, Alexander McQueen or Viktor & Rolf. More recently, we worked with talents from designer schools such as St Martin’s School in London and the University of Technology in Louvain, Belgium. All of these partnerships contribute to the brand’s dynamic for creation.

What is your main target?

The typical Samsonite customer is a consumer who is looking for reliable, long-lasting luggage. He travels a lot by plane as well as by train and our products ensure the quality and safety of a brand that is available in more than 120 countries around the world. We also target children with a specific collection: Sammies by Samsonite. Finally, with Black Label, we position ourselves on the top of the range, targeting much more selective customers. These lines contributes to pushing our technological potential even further, allowing us to introduce innovative concepts on the market such as the material Curv that was launched with the X’Lite line in 2005, for which we have the exclusivity of use in the luggage sector. Currently, Black Label is available in about ten points of sale in France.

Is there still a group of customers that you want to conquer?

Yes, at least figures shows that there is. In fact, a survey showed that only 31% of the French population currently owns a rigid suitcase with wheels and 37% owns a soft suitcase with wheels. That means double potential. First, to offer a better performing bag to consumers who already own one and secondly, to equip French people who do not own a bag with wheels.

How do you want people to define the brand’s style?

Reliability, stability, performance, design, and technology are the terms that define us the best. In any case, that is the agreement that Samsonite signs with the customer whose act of purchase is always based on the respect of these three criteria: resistance, lightweight and ergonomy. The brand is also known for its innovation. In fact, it can be proud to be the originator of several thousand patents. Among the latest innovations, we can name our Spinner suitcases equipped with shock-absorbing wheels, silent wheels in EVA and the smart Bungee (stalizing system for carrying an extra article on monotube luggage). Finally, the Cosmolite line is market. The material provides increased resistance at room temperature as well as in very cold temperatures. It is also the lightest material. Launched on the French market a year ago. It is extremely successful with points of sale and customers. Today it is the n°1 suitcase on the market (in value – source Panel Revendeurs May-August 2009, leather goods stores and department stores).

How is distribution for the brand organized in France?

Samsonite has 1000 retailers in leather goods, department store corners, airport shops, multi-specialist and specialized chain stores for business ranges. For the moment, we are not planning to build a franchise network. We estimate not planning to build a franchise network. We estimate online sales at less than 3% of Samsonite sales, including our own website but especially our retailers’websites. Our internet distribution charter specifies that “only Samsonite distributors who already carry our brand in a point of sale may sell our products online”. We have no intention of substituting online.” We have no intention of subituting online sales for our tangible network, but we would like to work in synergy.

What strategy do you have to keep on the retail network?

We do not systematically try to open new customer accounts, but rather to strengthen sales within distribution network, encouraging a true partnership relationship. We nurture that relationship with training sessions for sales personnel. We provide them with furniture and POP advertising for launching ranges or for seasonal themes in synergy with our advertising campaigns…In addition, we create emulation by holding yearly display window contests.

What about the mass-market and licenses?

Samsonite’s main networks are leather goods stores and department stores, the brand is not available as a mass-market product. In response to occasional demands from the mass-market, we can however produce dedicated lines under the American Tourister brand. As for licenses, we will stop using the Lacoste license at the end of 2010 because it decided to strengthen partnership with its clothing license, Decanlay.

What direction does your strategy take against the crisis?

After a very difficult beginning in the year 2009, due to a drop in air traffic and decrease in business customers, we note that demands have picked up since September, with very significant market share gains. In general, we are going to continue to invest in research and innovation, because it is impossible to skimp in this department if we want to continue to develop the market. We are also increasing effort in developing shorter ranges, with the support of advertising campaigns that generate traffic in points of sale. Finally the big event for Samsonite this year is its anniversary. To celebrate the brand’s centennial, we are planning exceptional launchings with special events in points of sale, beginning with the launching of our new Blite range in February. It will be the most supple and lightest range ever launched by Samsonite.

Sacastar.com is the french largest online bag store. With more than 100 brands, Sacastar offer the greatest choice of handbag, luggage and leathergoods in general. To get more, read our blog and to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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