by Alex Palmer | January 15, 2013
New styles and features are making it easier than ever to offer high-quality luggage and leather pieces in reward programs. Durability and lightness have become top draws for those selecting new bags, carry-ons, and suitcases. "In real estate it's all about location, location, location," says Mike Landry, director of special markets at Tumi. "Well, in luggage it's all about weight, weight, weight."

Tumi's Alpha Lightweight collection of hard-sided bags,which are covered in nylon material to give them a soft-sided feel, has proven to be a hit with incentive redemptions. Currently, it is only available in black but will come out in spruce and brown for special markets in spring 2013. Retail prices for the luggage in the collection range from $595 to $945. "We're always trying to get out of the realm of just having nylon black ballistic boxes," says Landry. "We're trying to take it up a notch as far as fashion."

Spinner wheels that allow for easy navigation through airports or planes are also in high demand. Samsonite's HYPERspace series meets this demand nicely. Equipped with four dual spinner wheels as well as an interior wetpak and mesh pockets, the case sells for $200 and has been popular for incentive programs.

"It's our biggest-selling collection at retail, and it is now a tremendous redeemer with special markets, where the price point is attractive," says Pete Mitchell, director of business-to-business sales for Samsonite ([email protected]).

"All of us in the luggage business have to watch and learn about our customers, but it's a moving target," says Mitchell. "You have to address short-term demands, but also think long term."

LeeAnn Schumacher, director of merchandising for Hinda Incentives, agrees that recipients are seeking out products with style and a luxurious flair when possible. This has made leather goods a popular choice for everyone from top earners to the average joe.

"Leather has never been as in demand as it is now," she says. "It's not all about paying the price, it also allows an individual to stand tall and proud, and raises the air around them. From key fobs to portfolios to handbags to luggage, they are all prized possessions."

One of Hinda's more popular leather products is the Mullholland Brothers Lariat All Leather Hippo Duffel ($795), a classic duffel with an extra long zipper that allows the bag to fully open easily.

Schumacher points to several Hinda leather offerings that are particularly big hits with women, including the Dooney & Bourke Florentine Vaccheta large zip-around wallet ($178), made of luxurious Italian leather; and the Salvatore Ferragamo Sofia Handbag (pictured above), made of black pebble calf leather, which retails for $1,650.