Category view: Is the future ‘premium’ for travel essentials products?

By Luke Barras-hill |

Manufacturers are channelling capital into premium iterations of popular travel essentials items, such as powerbanks.

While travel necessities such as adaptors, chargers, powerbanks, neck pillows and luggage are common fare in travel retail, investment is being funnelled increasingly into premium iterations of these products. Luke Barras-Hill surveys the landscape.

According to a June report from Allied Market Research, the global travel accessories market was worth $48.2 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of +6.4% from 2022-2031 to reach $95.7 billion.

Increasing per capita incomes and spending on luxury lifestyle choices, coupled with more frequent business and leisure trips are projected to stimulate growth of the likes of travel pillows, blankets and travel bags over the period.

This bodes well for travel retail suppliers, many of which are investing in new or developing existing premium travel accessories ranges in response to heightened consumer demand across different channels.

Skross Co-CEO Sam Gerber notes several possible drivers for the premiumisation trend, including learning from operators’ moves to stock ‘low-end’ accessories during the pandemic that served to drive down passenger average spend. This coupled with the fact that entry-level or low-end accessories can be viewed by travellers as commodities that do not contribute to the overall travel shopping experience.

“Those brands in the premium segments of travel accessories do care about continuous new product development and range management,” he explained. “In our case, we permanently add new and innovative products and solutions that are developed with the technology developments (new phones, tablets, laptops) in mind.”

There is a balance to be struck when ranging with premium- and volume-led offers, according to Go Travel.

The pricing equation

Travel pillow specialist Cabeau is seeing growth in premium travel accessories across all demographics, but notably among Gen X and millennials audiences.

“We have been gathering a great amount of research through our fantastic loyalty and warranty programme, CabeauClub, as travel increases again,” said David Sternlight, CEO, Cabeau.

“The insight regarding how consumers select their travel accessories shows that providing the product can make their flight better and/or more comfortable.

“The price disparity is worth the spend, especially for flights over two hours. Additionally, we’ve been looking into personalisation, adoption of different headgear options with neck pillows, and functionality post-travel as key call outs in the premium-level spend for these customers.”

While ‘premium’ doesn’t always equal more expensive, pricing can factor into the equation and consumers are increasingly seeking added value from their purchases – particularly at a time when rising global inflation is putting pressure on wallets.

For Go Travel, its steer towards premiumisation and innovation is encapsulated by the new Ultimate 3.0 travel pillow, available to market in January.

It is the by-product of an extensive redesign and consumer research. Stephen Worden, General Manager, Go Travel, reports positive feedback from travel retail partners witnessing growing demand from shoppers for more premium goods that add basket value and increase passenger average spend. However, there is a balance to be had.

“We still recognise the importance of being competitive and offering a range that meets different customer profiles – we’ve recently expanded our travel pillows range to cater to different customer needs,” he told TRBusiness. “We want to complement the range with a more premium offer going forward but not lose sight of where the volume is (per customer profile).”

As such, Worden believes that ensuring a clear difference between price points and communicating the option to ‘trade up’ remains important in airport retail.

“We’re working with our retail partners to focus on how our premium offer can be given extended space, not taking over the core range space,” he added.

When surveying a travel essentials segment that is frequently a high volume, low margin business, retailers have to consider whether the nod to ‘premium’ is justified.

Graeme Stewart, Retail & Services Director, Luggage-Point, observed: “If someone is going to America, they’ll want a TSA lock, but why is that £10-15 more expensive than a basic TSA lock?

“It’s a hard sell on certain products to explain why there is increased cost behind it. For a low-price item that does what it says on the tin, it is very hard to add that incremental value.”

To read the full article, click here for the TRBusiness November/December e-zine.

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