By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Portable storage accessories are combining fashionable styling with the increasing functionality and flexibility associated with "more product for the dollar."
No longer just made simply of leather-like coverings, bags are broadening their material base to include stronger more durable construction such as plastic, even metal.
At the same time, bags and cases are attracting shoppers who want to be able to store a wide variety of consumer electronics hardware and accessories in a growing assortment of usable space and compartments.
Product sold into the mass market, with looks and extras that increase their perceived value, is fast closing the gap with more expensive professional cousins, available traditionally in camera stores.
The once staid, conservative, soft-bag business is reaching out to a wide selection of consumers, including younger purchasers, who are being wooed with a variety of colors as well as tie-ins that propose an active-lifestyle environment.
The SoundKase division of Scosche Industries, for one, has signed a license with The Fast and the Furious. The company expects to generate an "insane" summer tie-in lineup of 10-CD and 12-CD Visor Organizers, a 36-CD Wallet, 96-CD and 208-CD Folders and a portable 20-DVD Folder. Said to have the "coolest look and most innovative designs" of any SoundKase product to date, these will be marketed in conjunction with the movie about auto drag racing.
The F&F Performance Tire Visor from the Oxnard, Calif.-based company, holds 12 CDs, for a suggested $12.99 retail. The F&F Street Tire Visor secures 10 CDs for a suggested $8.99. Both visor organizers are available in black, with silver logos and feature non-scratch polypro CD pockets and Thermal Plastic Rubber (TPR) molded into aggressive tire-tread patterns.
The F&F Performance CD Folders are constructed of 600D polyurethane, with TPR tread designs. Suggested retails are $9.99 for the 36-CD Wallet, $19.99 for the 96-CD Folder and $37.99 for the 208-CD Folder.
A portable DVD player case, from Case Logic, caters to the traveling user. The PDVK-2 is large enough to fit the newest 10-inch screen players, while the compact, thickly padded case contains built-in storage options with four protective DVD slots. It also offers compartments that accommodate two additional boxed DVDs and accessories. It comes with a sturdy carrying handle and detachable, adjustable shoulder strap.
Made with sleek and durable Koskin, the Longmont, Colo.-based Case Logic's DVD player case "features smart, improved functionality that gives the consumer even more flexibility," said Michelle Kranz, DVD product manager.
Advantages for travelers include easy-access side pockets for cords, batteries and remotes, as well as a back pocket with protective slots for DVDs and space to store jewel cases, keeping a users full audio-video package intact, said Kranz.
The PDVK-2, at a suggested $34.99 retail, was designed to allow users to watch movies on a plane or on a road trip, without the hassles of removing the player from the carrying case.
The Fast Track line of Body Glove-licensed bags from Fellowes features ergonomic shoulder strap, Poly-Armor foam padding, and multiple storage pockets for PDA, cellphone, media and more. It offers an expandable center section for increased storage.
With the Body Glove-brand attached to its portable storage, Itasca, Ill.-based Fellowes said its enjoys more consumer identity as well as consumers being attracted to the "unique" features of the bag. Top priorities for users are laptop protection, style and accessories storage. The Body Glove Fast-Track Messenger bag, Model 75913, has a suggested $49.99 retail and was scheduled for April availability.
The Enterprise Trolley Case, from Belkin, is a new addition to the Compton, Calif.-based company's line of laptop cases and bags. Perfect for the mobile road warrior, the case features a top-loading computer compartment that adjusts to accommodate most notebook computers and offers an expandable portable printer or projector section.
Featuring a tough-yet-stylish external crafting, with advanced internal functionality, the top-loading design makes accessing a notebook from an airplane seat easier than ever, said Belkin. The computer compartment and printer section are lined with closed-cell, high-density foam, while an accordion-style pocket makes it easier to store and easily access extra files. A telescoping extending handle allows for ease of operation. Suggested retail is $119.99 and the case was scheduled for mid-April availability.
Laserline brings "innovation, styling and functionality" to its portable media storage products. The company is building on the success of its EVA line, by introducing the EVA2 for 2003. "The portable storage incorporates the protection of sturdy, molded EVA construction with the EVA2 line's contemporary, two-tone stylish designs and increased capacities," said Ed Dougherty, Laserline executive VP for sales and marketing.
The Norwalk, Conn.-based Laserline has taken EVA2 to the next level, with contemporary and fashionable product. The two-tone color combination designs feature increased capacities as well as new nylon and rubber zipper pulls and grip patterns on the exterior of the cases. The heat-, water- and stain-resistant cases are "sporty, yet elegant; unique, yet functional," said Dougherty.
Color combinations for EVA2 are shiny metallic blue/matte silver and matte charcoal/silver, available in four SKUs — 32-, 64- and 120-capacity wallets and a portable CD player carrier with a 32-CD capacity. The player case also offers headphone storage and shoulder strap. Its youthful designs, the new zipper pull, rounded corners and hot colors are aimed at the 15- to 32-year-old market.
Suggested retails are $10.99 for the 32-CD wallets, $15.99 for the 64-CD wallets and $24.99 for the 120-CD wallets. The 32-CD and CD player cases have a suggested $15.99 retail.
A new series of "good-looking, highly functional" lightweight camera bags, from Lowepro, will make their debut in a few months. Designed for both hobbyists and professionals, the Nova AW Series combines weatherproofing technology, ergonomic engineering and aesthetic design.
The bags, developed to withstand the rigors of travel, are said to be unmatched for their feather-light weight and union of form and function. The larger Nova bags, from the Santa Rosa, Calif.-based maker, feature padded interior dividers that easily adjust to accommodate any collection of gear. Zippered compartments offer added protection.
Exterior and interior mesh pockets stretch to fit snugly around accessories. A security pocket tucked away at the back of the bag makes an ideal spot to hide valuables, and custom-tailored internal pockets provide safe storage for fragile memory cards.
Lowepro's Nova series is offered in two compact and five full-size bags. These include the Micro AW at a suggested $29.99 retail and the Mini AW, at $35.99 suggested retail. The Nova 1 AW through Nova 5 AW bags have suggested retails of $42.99, $49.99, $59.99, $69.99 and $84.99, respectively. Availability for all seven is mid-summer.
"Tired of basic black disc storage?" asks portable storage maker Computer Expressions. The company answers with, "metal is a hot commodity this year," and offers a selection of metal storage products that "reflect" a user's personality and music tastes.
Inspired by the automotive industry, the Philadelphia-based maker is selling Alloy Industrial CD wallets that feature a durable, diamond plate outer shell. The cases offer 24 or 64 non-stick sleeves and are tagged with blue, yellow, red or black distressed paint numerals. Suggested retails are $9.99 for the 24 capacity and $12.99 for the 64. These should hit retailers' shelves in June.
Cool sophistication of the 1920s elevates portable storage to an art form, says Computer Expressions about its Alloy Deco Collection CD wallets that feature metal shells that are symmetrically embossed and adorned with boldly colored glass "jewels."
The company is looking to instill users with a nostalgic spirit, offering product that embodies the clean-cut designs of yesteryear. This includes its Alloy Deco 24 CD wallets — along with journals and photo albums — that will be available in June for a suggested $9.99 retail and are designed to attract consumers who are looking for unique, visually appealing storage products.
Computer Expressions also is introducing Harry Potter CD/DVD wallets decorated with Harry Potter icons — the Golden Snitch and the Hogwarts crest. The lightweight, embossed 24-disc metal wallets have a $9.99 suggested retail.
Combining legendary strength and rugged good looks, the new and stylish Ranger Universal series from Vanguard USA provides the best protective defense for a user's photo and video equipment. Products include reinforced polished corners and durable construction that joins up with the most stylish design on the market today, said the Whitmore Lake, Mich.-based company.
The Ranger Universal series includes small, medium and large bags. The largest of the series, Model VGP-7418, includes an extendable handle and smooth-roll wheels. Suggested retail is $178.
Success of its compact, 20-compartment Pod bag — called a "digital lifestyle bag" by maker RoadWired, has encouraged the company to introduce an extra-large version, called Podzilla. Like its smaller cousin, Podzilla features a "winged" compartment design, with three multi-purpose accessory organizers surrounding the main compartment. The wings contain over one dozen storage and protection elements, including elasticized slots for flash memory/media cards, bungees to secure USB or other cords, loops for batteries and film, pockets for PC cards and more.
The bag, constructed of 1050D ballistic nylon comes in black, titamium gray, navy, red, yellow and olive green for a suggested $69.95 retail.
The Pod family has been rounded out with two scaled-down Pod Pouches, designed to carry compact cameras or other devices, along with batteries and other basic accessories. These include shoulder straps and heavy-duty belt clips. Suggested retail is $24.95 for the small and $29.95 for the medium.
A new storage product from the Rochester, N.Y.-based RoadWired is FlashFolio, which is designed to organize and protect flash media cards used by more portable electronic devices. It is a soft-sided case that opens like a book to reveal 18 individual storage slots, each sized to accommodate all popular sizes of flash media card. Two larger compartments, with separate zipper closures, are designed to hold PC card adapters or other small accessories.
Other features of the FlashFolio, which is available in black, gray, red or yellow nylon for a suggested $29.95 retail, include pen/marker storage loops, full zip-around closure and Velcro flap.
Kensington is launching a new, completely ergonomic computer bag, called the Sky Runner Contour Case for notebooks. Weighing less than three pounds, the bag is ergonomically designed for complete comfort, including a stress-relieving contour panel, shock-absorbing shoulder strap and ergonomic handles. The company said it has been recommended by the American Chiropractic Association.
Made of 1680D ballistic nylon, the product from the San Mateo, Calif.-based company includes industrial-strength zippers, a handy ticket compartment, front compartments that can be easily organized and accessed and back compartments that are padded to prevent "hardware jabs."
The bag was scheduled for April availability and has a suggested $104.95 retail.
With sales through office superstores as a goal, Samsonite is introducing its Business One case. The case is said to be ideal for the overnight stay, combining separate business and personal packing compartments in one unit for travel efficiency.
The case from the Warren, R.I. company offers a padded honeycomb frame laptop compartment, zip-away retractable handle and shock-absorbing SoftSpin wheels. Suggested retail is $170 and availability was scheduled for May.
Transportable Disc Shuttles from Denver-based ProLine are sold in packs of five, with each Shuttle Album offering the convenience of having individual custom-loaded selections by Music category, DVD titles, Game Discs, Software, Photo Discs or any disc titles to transport at any time.
Made of polypropylene material, each Shuttle Album includes removable disc storage pages to hold and protect up to 12 discs. A snapshot closure system assures that dust and other elements will be eliminated.
ProLine's Disc Shuttles are available in transparent and solid colors, with a clear, full-view wrap-around sleeve for inserting liner notes, title or index cards. Each 5-pack holds a total of 60 discs, at a suggested retail of $12.95 for the five Shuttles. Shipping will begin in June.
Luggage-maker Delsey, based in Paris, has teamed with Ramsey, N.J.-based bag and case distributor Bogen Photo, to offer a line of portable storage called the GoPix Collection.
Supplied in a variety of shapes and sizes, the 14 models, each in three color-combinations, feature removable Velcro dividers, making them completely customizable to suit individual consumer's needs.
The entire GoPix Collection is made with a 600D polyester fabric over a sponge backing. It uses a "unique" double-dying process that gives the fabric a contrasting two-tone appearance that "stands out in a crowd." The bags are extremely lightweight, easy to use and protective, yet are said to be among the best values of any bags on the market.
Two SKUs currently available in the 14 SKU line are the GoPix 70, a camcorder bag at a suggested $35 retail and the Go Pix 90, a backpack-style camera bag, at a suggested $60 retail.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.