Samsonite - One family's rise to the top – Luggage Factory

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Samsonite - One family's rise to the top

  Founded in 1910, by Jesse Shwayder, Samsonite International is the largest luggage company in the world. For over 100 years, Samsonite has been one of the out-front leaders in luggage technology and manufacturing techniques. Samsonite, under a variety of brands they own and operate, manufactures a variety of products to accommodate just about anyone’s traveling needs from luggage, business cases, laptop bags, backpacks, duffels, sports equipment bags and travel accessories. Samsonite owns and operates additional brands like American Tourister, Hartmann, Lipault, Boyt, and High Sierra where you can find many influences of the original Samsonite brand. In the early years of Samsonite, it was not always easy. The United States saw the stock market crash of 1929, followed by the next 10 years of The Great Depression. Many people struggled financially and leisure traveling became reserved for the few and the rich. During these times Samsonite faced some of its biggest challenges to stay in business. With dipping sales, the Shwayder brothers pulled some attention away from making luggage and began manufacturing other products like card tables, license plates, sandboxes, dog bowls and stilts to survive. Somehow Samsonite was able to survive The Great Depression and by 1939, Samsonite created “the Samsonite”. This unique piece of luggage was made of a sturdy fiber coating and leather bounding. The Samsonite was a huge success and instantly became a classic to the luggage world. Even with the success of “The Samsonite case”, Samsonite again was met with struggles due to world events. When World War II began, Samsonite was forced to temporarily shut down operations. The same materials needed to manufacture luggage were now in demand to produce war materials. Then in the 1950’s during the Korean War, once again, Samsonite found themselves building war materials instead of luggage. From bombs to rocket carriers, Samsonite no longer only made suitcases, but took what they learned from manufacturing war materials and began using synthetic materials and producing many different quality carrying cases. Towards the mid-late 1950’s, Samsonite produced one of their all-time most popular lines called Ultralite. This collection was a first of its kind as it was the first suitcase that stepped away from using the traditional wood framed construction. The Ultralite collection was produced using magnesium and injection molded plastics. With the great success of the Ultralite cases, Samsonite was able to expand the company internationally to Canada and Europe. Samsonite continued to grow and by the 1960’s, Jesse Shwayder’s son, King D, was running most of the company. It was under King’s direction that Samsonite became the leading manufacturer of luggage and attaché cases across the globe. Business was still increasing and Samsonite found themselves with a soft sided luggage line that was so successful, they opened up factories in Arizona and New Mexico to help support its production. It was around 1973 when the success of Samsonite, being the top luggage manufacturer in the world, could no longer be ignored by larger corporations. Beatrice Foods, one of the world’s largest corporations of the time, purchased Samsonite and allowed them to continue manufacturing Samsonite products and aided them with financial support. Over the next twenty or so years, Samsonite was bought and sold to a variety of companies and experienced many ups and downs trying to retain being the world’s leader in luggage manufacturing. During the 1990’s, under the direction of Malcom Candish, Samsonite would reclaim its spot at the top of luggage manufacturing and never look back. Candish implemented studies to find out exactly what the consumer wanted and it led to the production of “The World’s Greatest Garment Bag.” This bag was greatly successful and was followed by many more luggage collections; both soft sided and hard sided. Samsonite grew to over 430 million in yearly sales and controlled 12% of the world’s luggage market by 1989 and was still growing. Samsonite began to expand by purchasing other luggage brands like American Tourister and by 1994, and after once again, a new change of ownership, Samsonite grew to more than 630 million in yearly sales. As the world’s largest luggage company, Samsonite continued to grow even more, expanding their products to a variety of bags that includes golf bags, camping gear, laptop and camera cases and even luggage racks and accessories. Samsonite to this day is still the world’s largest producers of luggage and travel goods. From Lite-Locked cases that feature a 3-point locking system, their Samsonite exclusive CURV material, which allows hardside cases to be super lightweight and extremely durable and impact resistant, to their exclusive split-spherical-wheels for the ultimate in easy gliding your case in any direction on any journey. Samsonite (name derived from the Biblical character, Samson, being known for his strength) continues to lead the luggage industry by remaining on the cutting edge of technology and manufacturing processes to produce durable, innovative, quality travel products.

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