In recent years, Tumi has been the brand that motivated business travelers to pay a bit more. Samsonite bought Tumi last month in a deal valued at $1.8 billion.
With $2.5 billion in sales, Samsonite owns plenty of luggage brands whose names you might vaguely recognize. American Tourister is Samsonite. So is High Sierra, which affects an outdoorsy image. The French brand Lipault markets mostly to women, but it also belongs to Samsonite. Speck, which makes protective covers for electronics, is Samsonite as well. Ditto Gregory, whose backpacks are large enough to stash all of your worldly goods.
My point? Only that luggage by any other name often comes from Samsonite, the industry’s leading player, or one of the hundreds of anonymous Chinese manufacturers you find on Alibaba. Everybody seems to slap their name on vaguely generic bags, including car makers Bugatti and Ferrari; Coleman, best known for beverage coolers and camp stoves; fashion designers Nicole Miller and Tommy Hilfiger; and even New Balance and Under Armour, the sporting-goods firms.
Ebags, the online retailer, claims to carry about 700 brands of bags. Also, yet it feels compelled to market its own brand.
Considering that Babel of bags, how do you find the right one for you? Simple, honest answer: How the hell do I know? Nobody sane would even attempt to match you with an “ideal” piece of luggage.
“Luggage is such a barrel of snakes!” admits Susan Foster, who wrote a book on the subject — or, at least on how to pack the bags you do buy. “People pack and travel so differently that it is really hard to recommend” a one-size-fits-all solution.
What I offer here are some sane guidelines for refining your choices and ferreting through the barrage of battling brands.