SIC 5948

This category includes establishments primarily engaged in the retail sale of luggage, trunks, and leather goods.

NAICS Code(s)

448320 (Luggage and Leather Goods Stores)

There are 1,977 luggage and leather goods stores in the United States, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics. Luggage and leather goods stores employed more than 12,000 persons and generated net sales of $1.3 billion in the late 1990s. As specialty retailers, all of these businesses carried narrow product lines but many offered deep selection within those lines. Often, luggage and leather goods stores specialized in either leather apparel or gift items. Many of these stores were found in discount malls and airports.

The industry is served by the National Luggage Dealers Association. Founded in 1925, this trade association continues to represent retailers of luggage and leather goods around the country. The association's primary function is to produce promotional material and relevant industry information for its members. Through the efforts of both this organization and the leather producers, the retail luggage and leather goods industry is well organized on a national level, staying in constant contact with the leather producers and manufacturers.

Retailers maintain close relationships with the leather producers to gain a better understanding of customers' desires. Often, the producers hire fashion experts to advise retailers in future fashion trends in leather. The leather producers also provide promotional material and samples to retailers well before the leather articles are available to the public.

As they entered the late 1990s, luggage and leather goods stores faced a challenging business environment. Although people traditionally viewed fine leather as a luxury, the 1990's consumer placed a premium on value. Therefore, in an effort to remain competitive, industry leaders focused on providing customers with good values without compromising quality. Some businesses used strict cost control and streamlining as a means to this end, while others relied on competitive leather sourcing from China, India, and Brazil since these countries supplied quality leather goods at low cost. In the late 1990s, 53 percent of the leather and leather products sold in the United States were imported. Since labor costs represented a high proportion of total production cost for leather goods, it was more cost-effective to import leather goods from developing countries with lower wage rates.

Like most retail segments, luggage and leather goods retailers use technology and automation to improve efficiency. Retailers also needed to attend to customer demands and desires because U.S. consumers in the 1990s shunned hardside luggage, preferring lighter and less expensive softside goods.

Changes in the regulations concerning the use of carryon baggage in air travel provided yet another challenge to the luggage industry in the late 1990s. Anne DeCicco, President of The Luggage and Leather Goods Manufacturers of America, stated, "Luggage producers must be certain to accurately and truthfully label products within the parameters of the new carry-on baggage environment that has resulted from the Federal Aviation Administration's 1998 Advisory Circular on Carry-on Baggage and from changes the domestic airlines have implemented in their respective carry-on programs. Luggage manufacturers that use terms such as approved carry-on bag or approved by the FAA or that use incorrect sizes can be charged with fraudulent or misleading advertising by the Federal Trade Commission." How this will impact industry practice is one area of interest that will certainly be carried into the new millennium.

Further Reading

Leib, Jeffrey. "Excess Baggage? Major Changes Are Planned for Samsonite, But What Will They Be?" Denver Post, 30 September 1996.

DeCicco, Anne L. "Carry-On Baggage: The Next Steps." SHOWCASE International, December-January 1999.

"Poised for a New Millennium, Luggage and Leather Goods Trends are Y2K Compatible." AOL Newswire, 16 April, 1999.

Luggage and Leather Goods Manufacturers of America. Available from .

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: