Retail in Asia


Tumi general manager Amy Imbriaco maps out strategy for ‘digitally savvy’ Greater China

As international borders reopen and travel resumes at full capacity, luggage makers worldwide are competing to capture the attention of shoppers who have likely reduced spending on travel accessories over the past three years. 

With the renewed enthusiasm for travel, brands are striving to regain prominence in the minds of consumers by offering compelling products that meet their evolving needs and preferences. 

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Recognising this fast-evolving landscape, which has paved the way for travel trends such as ‘bleisure’ and the pursuit of wellness, Tumi’s Fall 2023 collection aims to combine innovative solutions, exceptional quality, and timeless aesthetics for the modern traveller. 

Retail in Asia speaks with Amy Imbriaco, Tumi’s general manager for Greater China, on the American luggage brand’s plans in the region and strategy for travel retail and customer engagement. Now based in Shanghai, Imbriaco has spent over 14 years with Tumi and has been instrumental in bringing to life a number of its campaigns across Asia and the Middle East.

Left: Amy Imbriaco, general manager for Greater China at Tumi, Right: South Korean football star Son Heung-min fronts Tumi’s ‘Essentially Beautiful’ fall 2023 campaign. Source: Tumi
RiA: How are you charting Tumi’s expansion in Greater China? What opportunities and challenges are you seeing in the travel space, in this region specifically?

Imbriaco: This summer has shown us that people have missed travel and are getting back on the road more frequently for longer periods of time, and are willing to spend more. 

As a result, we have seen an increase in demand in our luxury long-haul cases, such as the 19 Degree or Tegra Lite collections. The region is recovering fast to pre-pandemic levels as airlines ramp up capacity, which is a great opportunity for the travel industry. Just last week China removed restrictions for group travel to more than 70 destinations which will help with China’s outbound tourism, whilst increased flights to and from the US were announced. There is a lot to be optimistic about in terms of travel in the region.

RiA: How do you approach Tumi’s retail presence in Greater China?

Imbriaco: Greater China consumers are incredibly digitally savvy and expect the brands to service them on the same level wherever they are – online and offline. Our approach for a number of years has been multi-pronged, making sure we are well represented wherever our customers are hanging out, virtually or in person. Even during the pandemic, we rolled out the Tumi Virtual Store in 2021, having recognised that customers are spending more time online but are looking for that physical-store-like experience.

We are also very conscious of cultural differences in shopping habits around the region. As habits evolve and new ways of customer engagement emerge, we move quickly to make sure we are in sync with the customers. For example, we quickly moved with the livestreaming trend in Greater China. At the same time, physical retail is incredibly important for us and we have witnessed the return to malls and stores this year as people yearn for in-person connection. We are supporting this with our pop-up showcases that have grown from simple product displays to immersive branding moments that help us storytell about the Tumi brand, value and ethos.

Source: Tumi
RiA: Now that tourism is making a return, your thoughts on travel retail?

Imbriaco: Travel retail is certainly making a strong comeback as people are traveling again and airlines add capacity. This will continue as the world recovers in H2 and next year, and we see further upside on the travel retail side as a result.

China opening up outbound tourism recently will have an obvious positive effect on this sector in the coming months, and Hainan becoming a free trade port by 2025 will further drive businesses and support travel retail demand.

For us being a luxury travel company, we will continue to invest in the customer experience in our travel retail locations in the region. It is important that travel retail evolves with the times and offers a combination of hospitality, entertainment, brand experience and shopping. This is our focus as a brand that models itself on our customers’ ever evolving movements and habits.

RiA: In terms of Tumi’s audience – what is a typical profile of a Tumi customer, and has this evolved throughout the years, in your view?

Imbriaco: Tumi is a luxury performance brand for high achievers on the move. Through our relentless dedication to functionality, innovation and performance, we are attracting people who want the security of Tumi to aid them on their personal journeys.

An example is our continued cooperation with gaming platform One E-sports, followed by a collaboration with gaming brand Razer through which we designed bespoke travel gear for gamers. Another example is our partnership with luxury car brand and F1 team, McLaren that allowed us to increase our presence in the automotive interest customer segment.

Moreover, customers today are much more sustainability conscious, increasingly making purchasing decisions based on brands’ commitments to a more sustainable future. For instance, 1 percent of the revenue from our 19 Degree Polycarbonate collection sales – which is made of recycled polycarbonate – is being donated to certified nonprofit organisations through our long-standing global partnership with “1% for the Planet”.

Source: Tumi

Also, luxury travellers today don’t want to compromise on personal style, durability or functionality – each quality is equally important to them. We have evolved our styles to help improve the journeys of our customers through their functionality, but also express a sense of style through the way they look and how they can be customised. We believe that performance and style don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Another trend we see is the increased focus on health and wellness. This results in customers seeking multi-purpose day bags that they can take from the gym to work to dinner. We are constantly evolving our features, designs and our range, as our customers’ movements and habits change and in response to these trends.

RiA: Please can you share what’s next for Tumi in Greater China? Are there any markets in particular that you are excited about?

Imbriaco: I am excited about the prospects in mainland China as the last of the pandemic era restrictions are lifted and the economy steadily recovers. We have seen a lot more activity in Hong Kong and Macau and there is more to come from these markets.

Taiwan, with its strong travel industry, is also ramping up, with more to come as movement of people inside and out increases.

Source: Tumi

In terms of product development, we will continue our innovation in our core offering of travel and day cases. At the same time, we are expanding elements of our sport offer, creating collections for the outdoors, gaming, yoga, and golf. We will also continue to focus on our women’s business that is growing rapidly. One of the highlights this season is the Georgica collection which is a stylish and a lightweight collection for women on the move. 

This new collection is also presented as part of our ‘Essentially Beautiful’ campaign, featuring acclaimed singer-songwriter and actress Reneé Rapp. It showcases a unique look that is different from Tumi’s existing women’s collections. As a representation of quiet luxury with a more chic and elevated feel, Georgica features minimalistic styles that bring sophisticated ease to our women’s assortment by using natural grain pebbled or smooth leather, whilst elegant draping and soft, unlined structures evoke effortlessness. 

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RiA: What are your thoughts on celebrity or high-profile collaborations? 

Imbriaco: I feel there is a place for such collaborations as long as we share the same values. At Tumi, we work with people that inspire us and that are aligned with our quest for the highest levels of performance – whether they are athletes, artists, other high achievers or brands. Our McLaren collaboration is a great example of two brands that are aligned on the performance marketing front. Our work over the last few years with Son Heung-min is also a great example, as he is such a great personality who combines the highest performance on one of the biggest stages in the world with a humble and positive attitude.