Inspired by Tumi to create a Moodie Tracer

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So when the shadows lengthen
Into an evening sun
First there’s summer, then I’ll let you in
September when it comes
-Rosanna Cash, September when it comes

Where did 2023 go? As we enter what I always consider the final stanza of my working year, starting with the frenetic September to November period, I am amazed at how quickly this year has flown by.

Perhaps that’s a sign of age, perhaps of workload. Today, day 239 of the year, will also be the 239th consecutive day I have worked on – or should that be ‘for’ as it seems to be my master – ‘the website that never sleeps’.

Adam Hershman welcomes me to the Tumi boutique, Harbour City

That’s not a complaint. How could it be? For it means I have spent those days relating stories about a business community that in content and tone have most of the time contrasted positively with the darker ones I was forced to tell through the pandemic.

There is just so very much going on in what by geographic definition is a 24-hour industry. My personification of our website’s supposedly insomniac behaviour sometimes gives way to another one I relate to my team and my friends. In short, I have created a monster (a big, friendly one, I hasten to add), one that needs constant feeding.

I smile when I see one of our rivals describe themselves as ‘the leading provider of duty free & travel retail news’, not simply because’s it’s untrue but because I wonder if they have any possible idea of what it takes to achieve that status.

My move to Hong Kong in 2020 and our subsequent rapid development in China (including the recent opening of an office in Haikou, Hainan province) has provided plenty of sustenance. Hainan is a hotbed of travel retail activity, of course, and it’s now really encouraging to see a welter of positive developments happening elsewhere in China.

That includes Hong Kong, which has a sizable and I am glad to say now thriving travel retail community. On Tuesday I had the pleasure of catching up with Adam Hershman,

Tumi is an outstanding brand, something I know from personal experience. For years I had a Tumi wheeled briefcase I fondly called my ‘Moodie Mobile’ and I still possess a small Tumi shoulder bag I have carried on many an assignment during the past decade or more, for which I have an almost illogical fondness.

My beloved Tumi bag, almost as old me but ten times as durable

In researching the interview you can read next month, I discovered a heck of a back story. Tumi was founded by American entrepreneur Charlie Clifford, a former Peace Corp volunteer who used to import leather bags from South America (which explains the brand name, Tumis are Peruvian ceremonial knives with semicircular blades).

In the intervening five decades Tumi, acquired by Samsonite in 2016, has grown into an internationally renowned lifestyle and accessories label integrally associated with travel. As such, its fortunes are a useful indicator of travel retail’s state of health. And if that’s the case, then it’s all good news. Tumi’s global sales reached US$421 million for the first half of this year, up +52.3% year-on-year (like for like) and an impressive +22.4% over pre-pandemic 2019. Adam’s regions of Asia Pacific and the Middle East are absolutely flying.

Tumi has entered into some hugely successful collaborations, including one with British luxury automative house McLaren (whose name comes from famed New Zealand FI racing driver Bruce McLaren, tragically killed on the racing track in 1970 at the age of 32). Pictured above is the Tumi McLaren Aero International Expandable 4 Wheeled Carry-On.
The 19 Degree collection, Tumi’s first aluminium range launched in 2016, is one of the brand’s most popular lines. Pictured is the International Expandable 4 Wheeled Packing Case in Blush while to the right is the Voyageur Celina Backpack in Navy Liquid Print.

It’s also a really innovative brand. Inside the front pocket of my bag there is a small fixed metal label declaring ‘If found please call’ followed by a US number. This is known as the Tumi Tracer, a product identification and recovery programme that helps reunite customers with their lost bags. Perhaps given my travel schedule and worryingly advancing age I should contemplate fixing one to myself, a Moodie Tracer as it were.

The brand’s signature DNA embraces durability, design, excellence and sustainability, the last-named integral to an admirable ‘Planet, Product, People’ journey of responsibility. I look forward to telling the story in full.

We conducted the interview while standing inside the elegant Tumi boutique at Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui and watching a series of transactions (at least three Sling Bags alone in 45 minutes) to Mainland customers. If you need evidence that Mainland shoppers have returned to Hong Kong in their droves, just get yourself down to Harbour City. The place was jam-packed.

Tourists (mostly Mainlanders) and locals take in the splendid sights outside Harbour City
Facess, a pared-down, hip one-stop shop for beauty lovers, was doing roaring business during my visit
Even the (cut-out) seagulls are flocking to Harbour City, helping me do my best Long John Silver impression

Such anecdotal findings are the beauty of  getting out and about in our industry. From your haven of home or office you read (and write) things but you don’t feel or see them. Right from our early days when I worked out of my London garden shed (the original ‘Worldwide HQ’), I believed in being on the road as much as possible, meeting the people and discovering the places that make our industry tick. Nothing – other than during the pandemic – has changed.

On Wednesday I will fly to Tokyo, onwards to Osaka, next stop Chongqing, then Hong Kong, Paris and Bangkok on various assignments over the next three weeks. A few days back in Hong Kong to follow and then a certain renowned trade exhibition in Cannes looms.

In the good old days August used to feel like the lull before the storm that would kick off as much of Europe returned from holidays in September and all pre-TFWA World Exhibition hell broke loose. Not any more. This August felt to me like the journalistic equivalent of global warming, an unseasonal surge of hot stories, ranging from full-throttle summer promotional campaigns (none better than DFS’s Annual Beauty Campaign), quarterly results, product launches and store and restaurant openings.

Yesterday, a Saturday, brought Shinsegae Duty Free and Hyundai results, proof reading of our Top Travel Retailers Issue. Today is Coty results time, a Malin & Goetz interview and whatever breaks on the wires.

And, of course, events. Three of them – our FAB Conference & Awards (12-13 September), TFWA World Exhibition (1-5 October) and The Trinity Forum (25-26 October). Phew. August, pfft. Almost now a thing – but not a lull – of the past. September, bring it on. But first bring me a Moodie Tracer. ✈

I watch the clouds go sailingI watch the clock and sunOh I watch myself depending onSeptember when it comes

  • Hi Martin,
    I am happy to see your old TUMI bag and it’s really old-school and classic style. Looking forward to seeing you again in Hainan. and let’s talk about the ‘Moodie Tracer’. Congrats on your new office opening here~Greetings and warm regards, ~Johnny

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