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July 05, 2005

Get Carried away with the Bags and Totes

Sales are in the bag with these carry-all products.

In today's world, where convenience is king, having the right bag to get a person through the day is important. As a result, many bags and totes vendors have redesigned their lines and are reporting positive gains in orders and sales.

Steve Gelernter, national sales manager at Leed's, New Kensington, Pa., noted that trade shows, the primary market for bags and totes, saw a significant decline just a few short years ago, but he reported that sales are now rebounding.

Other companies agreed with Gelernter's positive sales assessment. "March 2005 was the best month in our company's history," said Christopher Duffy, vice president of marketing at Bag Makers, Union, Ill. "Because of an upswing in the economy, more purchase orders are opening up, as well as more quotes for larger quantities. We're closing more of those larger orders, which makes us very optimistic."

More than a Commodity

Because bags and totes are not seasonal items and they have a general appeal, it's easy to find products that will work for a varied audience, including men, women and children of all ages.

And, unlike promotional products that are suitable for one-time event use or are easily lost or disregarded, there's more of a likelihood that end-users will carry a bag around indefinitely, increasing a company's brand exposure. "It's not just a one-shot opportunity," said Laura Gaulke, marketing specialist at Neely Manufacturing, Seymour, Iowa. "Bags are very utilitarian; most people are always open to receiving one as a gift and finding a use for it."

According to Duffy, this distinction between gift giving and traditional giveaways is substantial. "Gift giving has a higher perceived value," he explained. "Our distributors are actually getting an opportunity to up-sell bags as add-on sales because they can convince their customers that recipients will remember a gift better."

The market has seen bags evolve from a basic commodity to much more. For example, Bag Makers' The Ultimate Bag was designed with multiple features to enhance functionality during trade shows, as well as continued use long after the event is over. "We built it specifically based on needs," said Duffy. "Most bags have two handles or straps, and when end-users wear those on their shoulders, they can't get into the bag. So, we just used one strap and made it adjustable, so it fits everyone."

The bag also has an outside pouch designed to hold notepads and trade show directories, as well as two holders for business cards (incoming and outgoing), and a pocket for a mobile phone or water bottle.

Then there is the Eclipse Backpack Tote from Leed's, which is anything but the run-of-the-mill trade show tote. The modern-looking bag has a shoulder strap that doubles as a traditional backpack.


The Eclipse Backpack Tote also has two outside pockets that can accommodate promotional products, such as pads and organizers, and there are pen loops that are suitable for pens with custom messages and logos. "We try to add design and style to the piece so that it has a lasting effect, and the client gets more of an annuity for brand recognition," said Gelernter.

Tote Trends

One of the latest trends in bags and totes is a shift toward importing. "Practically everyone—even companies that have traditionally been domestic manufacturers—is importing bags at this point," said Gaulke, who has studied the bags market extensively. "The quality of imports has improved drastically over the last decade. People have a higher bar of what kinds of features, options, and bells and whistles that they can have on a product for the price."

These days, bright colors have become popular, according to Duffy. "We see that bright colors do well because people want a little flash," he said.

According to Gaulke, pink is currently a hot color for bags. "We get a lot of people asking for it, and surprisingly, it is one of the top new colors," she noted. "That is definitely a trend that we've picked up on."

Gaulke cited programs such as breast cancer awareness as primary reasons for why pink has received a recent boost in popularity. "Awareness programs have become really big, with ribbons representing all of the different causes," she said.

Neely Manufacturing responded to the interest by expanding its denier nylon string backpack to include 12 exciting colors—one to suit any cause or event.

Gaulke added that the backpack is also a favorite among athletes and sporting goods stores. In fact, the bag's versatility makes it easy to sell to just about any market. And, as with all promotional products, versatility equals success.

By Dave McGurgan

Posted by farfromboring at July 5, 2005 09:55 AM