The Business of Bags
People have so much stuff to carry around nowadays. Briefcases aren't just for paper anymore. Travel bags need to hold more than a change of clothes and some toiletries. So what will hold an end-users' phone, tablet, laptop, business papers, work attire, etc.? We spoke to two bag suppliers to find out the top bags for working in the office or on the road.
For Debco, business briefs and backpacks are big sellers for businesspeople. "I'd say that these days it's about 50/50, and that never used to be the case," said Alex Morin, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Debco, Concord, Ontario, Canada. "Business briefs used to be at least 80 percent of the market for business bags whereas now you're seeing tons of people gravitating toward a backpack."
Meanwhile Bags Depot Inc. cited the brief case and messenger bag as its top business sellers. "In most cases it's because it has room to store your electronic stuff, but also your paperwork," Emmanuel Olguin, customer service representative for Bags Depot Inc., Ontario, Calif., said.
Finding the Perfect Fit
After determining which type of bag best fits your client, learn what will be going in the bag. The product's size is geared purely around the desired contents, Olguin noted. "Usually they're trying to fit something specifically inside the bags," he said. "Let's say a specific type of laptop or a specific type of document and they want to make sure it fits."
Most business bags will have enough space and padding to carry a laptop, but many will be able to carry a lot more, Morin added. "So you're seeing the evolution of those bags as they've become a bit more complex and a bit more suitable toward the types of things we're carrying these days," he said. "People are carrying more than one device, so you'll often find that they have to have enough room for a laptop, and then enough room for a tablet and, of course, documents [they're] going to be taking, including perhaps a padfolio [they] would put in there."
Additionally, grommet holes for speaker or headphones wires are also popular technology-related additions, he added. "People want to bring their music on the road so you're having people bring their Bluetooth speakers with them," Morin said.
Aside from safely storing electronic devices and important documents, businesspeople are looking for convenience, like not having to carry something in their hands, and extra components to accommodate everything else they carry on a daily basis, like a water bottle, keys, etc. "[A messenger bag] has room to store your electronic stuff, but also your paperwork," Olguin said. "It has compartments to store different things. Most of them come with a shoulder strap, so you can hang it around your body."
The popularity of business bags is only growing, Morin concluded. "Business never stops, people always have things to bring places, so you're going to need something to put those in and so I would say it's a category that is going to continue to grow," he said.
Rise of the Backpack
Morin mentioned that there is one bag category that is rising rapidly, and will continue to flourish in the future: backpacks. "[Backpacks are] just way more practical than anything else that's ever really been used," he explained.
Backpacks have become the go-to bags for both business and travel. Even those you'd least expect are picking up a backpack in lieu of a briefcase. "I've seen lawyers recently on planes with backpacks," he said. "I've seen politicians on planes with backpacks as well. I met a guy in the music industry on a flight to L.A. the other day, and he had a backpack. It's just interesting to see that it really spans the gamut when it comes to executives."
Morin explained the reasoning behind the growing trend of backpack use for business. "What's interesting is that the Gen Xers are the ones that are influencing that trend—the movement away from the strict business brief to the backpack—and they're the ones that are sort of challenging the notion that your bag has to be the way it looked years and years ago," he said.
Airlines also have played a role. By charging more to check luggage, more travelers opt to carry on their suitcase, leaving many to place their backpack under their seat or at their feet due to lack of room in the overhead bins. "So you don't want to make [the backpack] too big because then you won't have any legroom at all, so it's just got to be perfectly functional for an airplane so it will accommodate, of course, that laptop and important documents but not be so big that it takes up that entire space," Morin said.
But above all, it may just be convenience that is the biggest factor for this new preference. "You've got both your hands free, and that's great for us smartphone users," he said.