The Boundless Potential of Bags and Totes
Because of constantly crammed schedules and cravings to enjoy occasional escapes from the rat races that comprise our days, one can say (with the sincerest apology to Smokey Robinson) that bags and totes have really got a hold on us. The containers keep consumers confident that no matter what they need to lug or want to carry, they will find a suitable selection and take to their tasks or pastimes with added oomph. Their ubiquitous use also means well-crafted product lines make success a blessing for ambitious suppliers and distributors. So as to help promotional products industry personnel get a handle on the category’s popularity and learn to hold end-users’ attention when duties and diversions come calling, we connected with Grethe Adams, president of Southern Plus, Hartwell, Ga.; and Harris Cohen, president and CEO of All-In-One, San Diego, finding them eager to explain how their contemporaries can bag a prosperous presence in a carrier-happy world.
Carrying That Weight
A couple decades ago, the adolescent versions of us truly had a major cereal fixation, so we enjoyed manufacturers’ taglines for their products. General Mills’ “How do they cram all that graham into Golden Grahams?” pitch was one of our favorites. The whole idea of fitting an excessive amount of something into any sort of source or receptacle, in fact, makes us curious. And bags and totes often must come through in the clutch, meaning they need to be of the highest quality. Forming one of the top sales volume categories in the industry, the pair, according to Adams, allows for more versatility and creativity than other product groups, thus making them extra exciting to design and sell.
“Bags and totes are now our main category,” she said of the clout the carriers have come to enjoy in the 22 years she has worked for Southern Plus, with 20 of them as its president, adding that having them as such allows for her and her hires to offer combination sets with goodies such as blankets and umbrellas.
Cohen and his crew concurrently consider the items core components of their operations, with the head honcho, who started All-In-One 31 years ago, proudly proclaiming, “There is something about bags that is undeniable.”
“Maybe it’s being easy to carry around and hold stuff—lots of stuff,” he opined. “And people like to carry them around just in case.”
The Golden State inhabitant also touched on the backlash against plastic bags, the outlawing of which in certain states has become a common topic in the industry. Gripes against the bearers mean companies, per Cohen, must “have an omnipresent, all-inclusive, all-embracing (and convenient) bag available,” with the figure noting All-In-One’s rip-stop nylon bestseller holds 40 pounds and folds into its interior pouch to close, “making it no bigger than a peach.”
Handling the Responsibility
Since Adams feels bags and totes offer “endless options in fabric, trim, shape, size and color,” one could think the goods all but sell themselves. However, industry figures can never skimp on their homework and must make a number of realizations concerning the commodities, with her company contending that giving them a retail design look could help businesses to stand out.
“We’re always excited about showing our retail-type bags and strongly believe it’s worth spending a little more to ensure repeated use and resulting added exposure,” she said. “We really love bags—they’re just so versatile,” Cohen stated. “You can use them all the time, beat the heck out of them, and they look just as good as when you first got them.”
He and Adams paint a glorious picture of bags’ benefits, but what is it about the containers that makes them so distinguished? Put otherwise, what would inspire, for example, a supplier to mimic Southern Plus by making them its chief focus, or a distributor to strike up partnerships with places that nurture such a mindset? It comes down to individuality and possibility, with the former being a prominent piece of satisfying younger consumers.
“I definitely think the type of bag you carry is a way to show off your individuality,” Adams surmised. “Our various jute bags do very well, which probably is a reflection of a general concern for the environment, as well as a continued trend among the millennials toward a more casual and simple lifestyle.”
Cohen sided with the beginning of his peer’s assessment, noting a recent order for duffels featuring a double-sided American Honda logo proved so appealing, he felt tempted to print himself a few overruns.
“The advertising space on bags is so diverse and can get altogether large,” he said. “Therefore, more advertising space means more eyes and touchpoints for your brand.”
Reverently dubbing as “pack animals” those end-users who enjoy showcasing carriers as a part of their unique natures, Cohen declared that each bag becomes an extension of them, an assessment that means the future for bags and totes is boundless and incredibly inspirational for him, Adams and anyone else with a perceptive eye. At a time when technology consumes many consumers, it can be interesting to fathom how simple products remain ubiquitous.
“You need something to carry all those tech gadgets in!” Adams quipped, seconding Cohen’s point about plastic bags’ on-the-outs status as a factor in increasing reusable shopper totes’ influence. “There are other trends that support the continued need for bags as well. The renewed popularity of shopping at local farmers markets means you need to carry a tote to hold your vine-ripened tomatoes, kale and fresh corn. Family-focused activities like sports, trips to the park or hiking typically involve carrying some minimum amount of gear and snacks. For this, bags with pockets are popular, as they allow easy access to essentials and help keep you organized. These bags, by the way, can do double-duty carrying all your work stuff during the week.
“Bags will continue to do well, as they are an ideal promotional product,” she continued. “With a large, visible imprint, public exposure, relatively low cost, unisex appeal, no size consideration, and high perceived value, bags offer exceptional value. Add to that, bags deliver more impressions than any other promotional product, providing your client with the best return on investment on their promotional spending."
Whether suppliers and distributors want to sell simple or sophisticated goods, Cohen and Adams could not contain their enthusiasm for explaining how they can make bags their bag.
“Tons of styles, colors and materials give [people] so many options,” Cohen said. “[With that said,] bags have higher customer satisfaction and higher profit margins.”
“Try to bundle a tote bag with another relevant/themed item,” Adams suggested. “For the beach, add a beach mat or towel. For work, add an umbrella or a tech gadget. For travel, add a blanket, etc.
“Zero in on a couple of key features that are important to the client to narrow down the options,” she continued. “A zipper closure, outside pockets or the material content are examples of factors that may be important to various customers. Eco-friendly may be another key requirement. Consider ordering assorted colors of a bag for added fun and excitement, or coordinate the tote color with the brand’s favorite cause for special events.”