Samsonite, the world's largest branded-luggage maker, is on a journey to space - cyberspace, that is.
It is launching its multi-brand portal on Monday, immediately targeting 5 per cent of its business there.
Samsonite Singapore general manager Satish Peerubandi said that in the long run, online sales could rise to 30 per cent of its total.
"E-commerce will be a key priority for the brand in the near future and in fact, in 2017, it is one of the very important levers for the industry's growth," he said during a recent Business Times interview at his TripleOne Somerset office.
And still in the works, the integration of its physical stores with its online portal.
"We are still fine-tuning the 'merger' and as soon as it's ready, which will be sometime later in the year, we will be announcing it," he said.
He assured stakeholders that the brand will not be forsaking its brick and mortar shops or its business partners.
"We are grateful to our partners - be it yesterday or today. They have done a wonderful job selling our products. What's important is every brand and every positioning of that brand demand their own channels.
"The new order of the day is that this is an omnichannel. We have to be where the customers are. If the customers are shopping in department stores, we have to be there. Currently the customers are shopping online, so we will be there too," he added.
Founded in 1910, Samsonite produced hand-crafted luggage for turn-of-the-century travellers. As travel evolved into a mainstream activity, the brand came up with a string of "firsts" - the first matching luggage sets, the first lightweight ones and the first wheeled cases.
"But trends are changing very fast. In the past, we just had one design which we continued. Today, we cannot live with that any more. We need to be close to the market and close to the customers in order to listen to them and come up with quick solutions. A brand that is agile and quick to adapt will only move forward," he said.
Mr Peerubandi said Samsonite has always been able to adapt to the changing needs of travellers and this has helped the brand "more than just survive" for over 100 years.
"Samsonite tries to approach each challenge in its own way. And one of the biggest game changers has been our multi-brand strategy. We are not limited to the core brand. Today, we have many other brands, ranging from premium labels and contemporary luxe to mid-range and for everyday use," he said.
These include the American Tourister, High Sierra, Gregory, Speck, Lipault and Kamiliant brands.
"Our biggest move was of the youthful French brand Lipault, which helped us get into the ladies market," Mr Peerubandi said.
Its formula for bagging a bigger share of the growing luxury luggage market is through acquisitions. It bought US luxury brand Hartmann in 2012 for US$35 million, a few years after it launched its own luxury brand, Black Label.
Last year, its purchase of rival luxury brand Tumi for US$1.8 billion was its biggest acquisition since listing its shares in 2011.
Helped by this particular buy, the Hong Kong-listed company posted a 22.7 per cent jump in third quarter sales in September last year to US$765.3 million despite a depressed global trading environment.
Tumi, which was acquired on Aug 1, 2016, contributed net sales of US$94 million during the period.
This diversification has helped Samsonite get into "the different price points".
Mr Peerubandi was quick to assure though that Samsonite "delivers on its promise of quality".
"There is that trust our customers continue to have in the brand and we do not wish to dilute that, even if it's for the affordable, low-end luggage. We still provide global warranty. Our service centres around the world will take care of damages caused by unforseen circumstances," he said.
This article was first published on January 16, 2017.
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