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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Samsonite wants to get a grip on handbags

Handbags would help luggage company to fill a gap as it focuses on boosting sales of office gear and non-travel products to women

A Samsonite suitcase. The firm wants to expand its appeal to female customers. Bobby Yip/Reuters
A Samsonite suitcase. The firm wants to expand its appeal to female customers. Bobby Yip/Reuters

Samsonite International, the world’s biggest luggage maker, has its eyes on adding a handbag brand and is open to a deal that could rival its $1.8 billion purchase of Tumi, according to chairman Timothy Parker.

Handbags would help Samsonite fill a gap as the company focuses on boosting sales of office gear and non-travel products to women, Mr Parker said. Products designed for women currently account for less than 5 per cent of the company’s sales, and it aims to eventually boost that ratio to a quarter.

“Strategically, we are quite interested in handbags. We want to find a brand that fits with the rest of our portfolio of products,” said Mr Parker, who has served as chairman since 2008. “The one product we don’t have a big presence in is handbags.”

Samsonite, which posted record net sales last year, is the dominant player in the $19bn global market for luggage. The company, which is listed in Hong Kong and based in Massachusetts, United States, is seeking to expand sales outside North America and increase its range of products. Executives said they are optimistic about growth, with global travel and consumer sentiment on the upswing.

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Samsonite shares have jumped 22 per cent in the past year. The stock gained as much as 2.7 per cent in Hong Kong on Monday, while the benchmark Hang Seng index slid.

Mr Parker said Samsonite is not actively approaching potential buyers, and the company will likely spend the next year or two consolidating after its $1.8bn acquisition of luxury bag maker Tumi Holdings in 2016 and the $105 million purchase of online retailer eBags last year. The non-travel products market could be a potential space for deals in the future, he said.

Samsonite would be prepared to pay a premium, and is interested in a handbag brand that has an international footprint, Mr Parker said.

“Most handbag brands are owned by luxury brands and few are open to selling,” he said. “We are not afraid of paying a good price for a good business. We certainly have the firepower to do it. A good fit is key.”