That's a big reason bag suppliers are becoming increasingly style-conscious in their product offering. Many suppliers now offer retail-inspired bags in high-end materials and Louis Vuitton-esque patterns and prints. Others, like EnduraPack and Tagmaster, offer custom bag programs. Tagmaster's Soapstone line, for example, allows buyers to customize everything from material to zipper color, and to upload patterns to be digitally printed on the bag's exterior.
"Try to think of a bag as an article of clothing or accessory," said Emery. "The intent when providing a bag as a solution is to provide the recipient with something they will use often. People want to receive something with a splash of style that will complement them. With as many options as there are in the industry, provide solutions that meet the needs not just of the buyer, but of the end-user."
If fashion is consumers' top priority in a bag, function is a close second. There are entire websites dedicated to exploring bag contents (one Flickr site boasts 28,283 members and 15,464 user-submitted pictures) and popular tech website The Verge runs a recurring feature inviting people to catalog and analyze the items in their bags. Even the Wall Street Journal has gotten in on the act, profiling everyone from entrepreneurs to fashion models to NBA referees in its "What's in Your Bag?" series.
The unifying theme? People carry a ton of stuff—laptops, smartphones, books, tablets, cameras, magazines, water bottles, chargers, cosmetics—and they need bags that can hold all of it. That means sturdy construction and lots of pockets. "Know your material and specifics regarding the construction of what you are selling," Emery explained. "There are many different qualities of bags out there, and the end result is that the bag has to hold whatever the recipient places in it. Bags made of polypropylene are price-conscious but lack the overall quality and durability that some customers might expect. Polyester materials are more durable, [as are] canvas-constructed pieces."