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Samsonite Asia heightens focus on China

Branded luggage-maker Samsonite Asia aims to make China its biggest market within five years, pinning its hopes on eCommerce and social media to fuel growth.

While sales in China now account for more than 10 per cent of its total revenue, Samsonite CEO Ramesh Tainwala says they are likely to double by 2022, thanks to the explosion in online shopping and a wealthier population keen to travel.

“Now that 20 per cent of our Chinese businesses come from online, we expect the number to grow by about a third in a couple of years,” he says.

Global net sales in 2015 reached US$2.43 billion for the Indian company.

Virtual stores on B2C sites JD and Tmall have claimed 60 per cent of Samsonite’s online business in China. Its luggage is also sold through the digital outlets of shopping malls and department stores.

Samsonite will open its own direct online shopping portal this year aimed at more sophisticated buyers who want bigger-ticket items via the brand rather than a third party.

First-half sales last year remained flat for Samsonite, according to its interim report, partly because of sluggish performance in China as consumers forsake department stores for online retail.

Samsonite president for China and the Philippines Frank Ma says the company spares no effort in using social media campaigns to guide traffic to brick-and-mortar stores. For example, followers of Samsonite’s official WeChat account are given a discount coupon when they sign up for promotional events in shopping centres.

Ma says content marketing helps attracts customers and adds to another 5 per cent to its offline sales.

Seven of Samsonite’s nine brands have been introduced to China, ranging from the entry-level American Tourister to the newly acquired Tumi, which targets high-end business travellers.

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