Founded in 1910 in the USA, Samsonite Inc. — whose portfolio includes Samsonite, Tumi, American Tourister, Gregory, High Sierra, Kamiliant, Ebags, Lipault and Hartmann — is among the world’s most recognisable luggage firms, having grown its international footprint exponentially in recent decades.
A point of focus for heritage companies such as Samsonite today lies not in building relevance but maintaining purpose – especially in a growing industry that increasingly needs next-generation consumers to recognise their brand.
Ahead of the Samsonite’s participation at the upcoming eTail Australia Connect event, Retail in Asia speaks with Marcio Oliveira da Silveira, general manager of travel brand American Tourister and High Sierra for Australia and New Zealand.
RiA: Samsonite has been around for many years. How do you stay relevant in an industry with so many emerging players?
Oliveira: Samsonite has been in business for 112 years, and we have thrived through every major event globally throughout this time. Innovation is a key element of our DNA, and we apply our unparalleled expertise to deliver value where it really matters to customers. The luggage industry doesn’t have major barriers to entry, like, say, aircraft manufacturing, so new brands come and go.
What keeps Samsonite as the industry leader, for over a century now, are fundamental factors such as our proven history of trust, durability, versatility and innovation, and our presence in over 100 countries, which give customers a high level of assurance that no other brand can deliver. Start-ups in the luggage industry may try to create noise and hype, often with dubious claims to get customers’ attention. The depth of trust that Samsonite has built, and the true test of time that our products have endured, prove to be more valuable to customers than superficial hype and gimmicks.
Sustainability is key. Samsonite has fully committed to a global sustainability strategy, which we call Our Responsible Journey. As a publicly-listed company, we have made our direction clear for 2025 and 2030 across three key areas: product, planet and people. Our strategy has committed us to investment in technology that has started to deliver products made using recycled materials and with the high quality expected from our company.
In 2018 we started using Recyclex material technology across rPET, recycled nylon, recycled polycarbonate and recycled polypropylene, thereby reducing the production of new plastics for our products.
In 2022, Samsonite transformed the equivalent of approximately 100 million 500ml plastic bottles, which were likely going to landfill, into our rPET fabric. We had previously forecast to achieve that over a three-year period, which shows the acceleration of our progress.
As the world’s leading luggage company, we have a competitive edge in sourcing and technology. Sustainable materials can easily lead to high costs but we have managed to reach a reasonable level of cost through the expertise of our teams as well as the quality of our partnerships with suppliers. As a result, we have been able to deliver beyond the value expected from our customers when they choose our products. Customers value sustainability, but many are not willing to pay more for it.
RiA: How did Samsonite survive the pandemic? And how are you looking to approach your audience now that travel seems to be back in full force?
Oliveira: Samsonite has a strong culture of adaptability and resilience, which, like in historical events such as major wars and financial crises, was again put to the test in 2020-2021. Samsonite came out of the pandemic with remarkable strength. We’ve used that time to develop several award-winning products, and to innovate throughout our company’s operations. We’ve further developed our processes and technologies to capture the rebound. And it’s paid off, as we’re growing in Australia, for example, at higher levels than before the pandemic.
RiA: It’s no secret that markets around the world are navigating inflation. How do you approach marketing and pricing strategies to meet your customers?
Oliveira: This is not a new concept or challenge for Samsonite. We’ve been through it several times over more than a century. Our foundation of innovation and incomparable expertise plays a big role here, as it allows us to focus on the elements of value that really matter to consumers. And this spans across our design, product development and supply chain, marketing and also with our retail partners across the world.
RiA: You are speaking at this year’s eTail Australia Connect event. Can you share what the audience can expect to hear from you and what excites you?
Oliveira: What excites me is exactly what I plan to share with the audience, which includes real-life stories of how businesses have thrived in challenging circumstances. There are always problems facing the retail industry, some more controllable than others. We’ll look at inspirational stories to energise the audience to take control of their business by applying business fundamentals to turn problems into opportunities.