Robust Saudi travel industry bodes well for luggage maker

30 March 2013
JEDDAH - Tourism plays a pivotal role in Saudi Arabia's economy. It has proven contribution to economic growth, job creation, income generation, foreign exchange earnings - making a positive contribution to the balance of payments, economic diversification, regional development, infrastructure improvement, and poverty alleviation.

Latest available data forecast that the number of tourist arrivals in the Kingdom would grow by an average of 6 percent y-o-y through 2015, with religious tourism as the main driver, coupled with a growing business travel as the Kingdom undergoes further industrial expansion and massive infrastructure development.

Against this backdrop, one of the ancillary industries that benefits is the luggage manufacturing, which anticipates a bullish activity amid a growth in the travel industry.

In an interview with the Saudi Gazette, Anwar Khan, Samsonite Middle East Assistant Director - Sales & Marketing, said the company, which is renowned worldwide as the leading luggage manufacturer with more than a hundred years of experience, sees total sales this year to grow by another 40 percent in Saudi Arabia alone, gauging from the sales trajectory and trends in the first three months of 2013.

"Samsonite has witnessed phenomenal growth in the past three years across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We have registered impressive growth - achieving sales growth of 40 percent year on year. From a GCC perspective, we have grown an enviable 35 percent growth year on year growth for the last 5 years," he said.

He added: "We are confident about achieving 40 percent plus growth in Saudi Arabia by the end of 2013, going by the impressive sales we have registered till March 2013. In line with this, we are committed to expanding our geographical presence in the Kingdom and are looking to open 10 more monobrand stores over the course of the next 2 years."

"Samsonite has always been the leader for travel and business bags in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," he added.

Owing to the pivotal role played by Saudi Arabia in the company's regional growth and operational strategy, Khan revealed Samsonite's "aim to further enhance our retail footprint here by opening 10 more stores, taking the total number to 30 across the country. Through this aggressive expansion, we aim to further our legacy of leading the travel industry to new levels of innovation, not only in the Kingdom, but also across the Middle East in the years to come."

As it expands, Samsonite also plans to tap the huge potential of Saudi nationals in its future growth plans and "we are working out the strategy to keep them an integral part of our future expansion within the Kingdom."

Asked about the unique selling proposition of Samsonite vis-à-vis other popular brands, Khan said "our products are synonymous with travel and are used the world over, by everyone from Arctic explorers, package tourists and busy executive travellers to the President of the United States of America. As the leaders in cutting-edge travel solutions, our primary concern is to satisfy the needs of our discerning travellers. Our range of innovative, high-quality business collection integrates style, functionality and design technology to meet the changing lifestyle needs of the professionals."

He explained that when it comes to quality, Samsonite brand stands out. For example, the Samsonite spinners will hold all the travel clothes and toiletries secure and keep them safe. It is easy to transport and so the traveler feels stress-free when carrying the luggage. Moreover, all Samsonite bags come with a safe lock which is very important for every traveler having their luggage checked in. It is not only paramount for safety but privacy as well.

Moreover, the Samsonite collections also boast of absolute lightness, coupled with quality, practical zip dividers, harmonious and ergonomic appearance, optimal innovation and functionality with spinners and an extensive range of colors. "At Samsonite, we believe in offering world-class and strong luggage and travel gear to make travel a pleasure. Our core philosophy at Samsonite centers on the idea that life is a journey. Samsonite, as a brand, facilitates the journeys that we make throughout our lives," Khan said.

Amid these positive developments in which Samsonite witnessed unprecedented growth over the years in the Kingdom, Khan disclosed the company's plan "at doubling our business in the next 3 years," adding that it will "continue to actively increase the number of Saudi nationals in our operations."

He further said that Samsonite is "extremely optimistic" about growth and expansion in other Gulf countries as well and the "spate of new stores that we plan to open in the region reinforce our ambitious plans and our strategic objective to be more accessible to our valued customers."

As to the challenges the company faces in advancing its business interest in Saudi Arabia, Khan said "formidable brands like Samsonite have the wherewithal to sustain the business due to its size and scale. Samsonite has been successfully able to increase the market share every time the situation turns difficult. We intend to communicate our vision as a brand that understands the challenges of a contemporary life and provide diverse product solutions across categories."

Moreover, though Samsonite is regarded as an upmarket brand, Khan said its sales were not negatively affected by weak global economy and geopolitical tension.

"Overall, we haven't felt any impact on our sales, either because of the geopolitical tension in the region or the global slowdown. In fact, we have achieved a steady increase in our market share over the last couple of years. Given the nature of the resident-population in the region, our sales have witnessed an upswing during the travel season and vacations, which normally hits the peak during the summer months in the Middle East."

He added: "We see consumer demand for luxury luggage to increase at a faster pace in the near future on the back of improving economic growth and pent-up purchases. Formidable brands like Samsonite have succeeded in sustaining the business due to its size and scale."

And as summer vacation fast approaches, Khan said "naturally, there is a positive effect on our overall sales. As a company, we come up with a wide range of promotions and packages to suit the needs of our discerning customers during the summer vacation. Moreover, we also tie-up with other promotions and festivals such as the Dubai Summer Surprises, Dubai Shopping Festival, Sharjah Spring Promotion, etc, to offer unbelievable deals, packages and offers for our customers."

The summer months represent a key sales period for the regional luggage market, and being the leaders in the market, "it is essential that Samsonite keeps a close eye on the trends. There is a definite upswing in the luggage pick-up from our retail outlets, especially the suitcases, during the travel season and vacations, which normally hits the peak during the Summer months in the Middle East."

Besides, Samsonite gives strong emphasis on durability, he added. Samsonite has always been at the leading edge of design, new material and styling. Epitomizing strength, durability and quality, all Samsonite products are put through tortuous environmental tests for function, fitness, form and stress. At the same time, they are market-tested for consumer acceptance of their color, style, quality and price. "Our range of luggage solutions offer advanced impact resistance and lasting durability and is designed to guarantee unparalleled strength and lightness and caters at the same time to every traveler's needs and requirements," Khan noted.

On top of that, Samsonite aims to reinforce its legacy of leading the travel industry to new levels of innovation, Khan said. "Our primary concern is to satisfy the needs of our discerning travelers. Our latest range of innovative, high-quality business collection integrates style, functionality and design technology to meet the changing lifestyle needs of the professionals. We focus our energies on this."

© The Saudi Gazette 2013


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