March 27, 2015 / 10:30 AM / 2 years ago

Chasing Chinese tourists, Samsonite launches multi-brand airport shops

Samsonite luggages are displayed during an investors' luncheon presentation in Hong Kong May 30, 2011. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

HONG KONG,(Reuters) - Samsonite International 1910.HK, the world’s biggest luggage maker, attributed its record China sales last year to the company’s wide range of brands aimed at travelers with varying budgets and tastes. Its next target: tourists at airports.

The Hong Kong-listed company reported $227 million in China sales last year after opening hundreds of stores in not just major urban centers on the prosperous coast, but up-and-coming cities in the interior such as Chengdu, which has non-stop flights to destinations as far away as London and San Francisco. China accounted for a quarter of sales in Asia, which was Samsonite’s biggest regional market.

Even with a slowing economy and an austerity campaign by the government, China has a still-growing middle class, which will help double the number of outbound tourists - who will all need luggage - to 200 million by the end of this decade, according to an estimate by Hong Kong-based brokerage CLSA.

Apart from its flagship Samonite brand, the company also sells Lipault travel bags, high-end Hartmann suitcases, American Tourister luggage, and High Sierra and Gregory backpacks. With new openings under the J.S. Trunk & Co name, and its acquisition of Rolling Luggage in February, Samsonite now operates multi-brand stores in airports. In Greater China, Samsonite currently has a total of six multi-brand airport retail shops - one in Hangzhou and five in Hong Kong and Macau.

“Airport retail almost becomes advertising,” Chief Financial Officer Kyle Gendreau said in a recent media briefing in Hong Kong. Samsonite’s ownership of the shops lets the company choose which brands to emphasize in displays. Samsonite could, for example, highlight American Tourister to boost its appeal.

Editing by Ryan Woo

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