Samsonite Asia puts strong focus on growing China’s market

Branded luggage-maker Samsonite Asia aims to make China its biggest market within five years, pinning its hopes on e-commerce and social media to fuel growth.

While sales in China now account for more than 10% of its total revenue, Samsonite CEO Ramesh Tainwala said they are likely to double by 2022, thanks to the explosion in online shopping and a wealthier population eager to travel.

“Now that 20% of our Chinese business comes from online, we expect the number to grow by about a third in a couple of years,” he said.

Global net sales in 2015 reached US$2.43 billion for the company.

Virtual stores on Tmall and JD have claimed 60% of its online business in China. Its luggage is also sold through digital outlets of shopping malls and department stores.

The retailer will also open its own direct online shopping portal this year to attract more sophisticated buyers who wish to purchase bigger-ticket items via the brand, rather than a third party.

According to its interim report, first-half sales in 2016 remained flat partly due to a sluggish performance in China, as consumers migrate online to the detriment of TV home shopping and department store sales.

Samsonite president for China and the Philippines Frank Ma said the company will strive to use social media campaigns to guide traffic to brick-and-mortar stores. For example, followers of Samsonite’s official WeChat account are given a discount coupon when they sign up for promotional events in shopping centres.

Ma said content marketing helps attracts customers and has added another 5% to its offline sales.

Seven of Samsonite’s nine brands have been introduced to China, ranging from the entry-level American Tourister to the newly acquired Tumi, which targets high-end business travellers.