Globe-Trotter, the more than 100-year-old British luggage brand, is doing a little bit of globetrotting itself.
The luxury label, favored by Queen Elizabeth II, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and explorer Sir Edmund Hillary, has traveled to Los Angeles to open its first U.S. store.
Worldwide retail is a new venture for the company that has only two other stores in the world — one in London opened in 2014 and an outpost established in 2016 in the Ginza district of Tokyo.
Los Angeles was chosen because California is the number-one market in the U.S. for Globe-Trotter’s collection of vulcanized fiberboard suitcases, and Los Angeles is the number-one city for U.S. consumers.
“Globe-Trotter has been used for years by celebrities in Hollywood and people in the film and music industry,” said Globe-Trotter chief executive officer Vicente Castellano, speaking by phone from Milan. “Obviously we thought being close to that would be a good move.”
The 1,500-square-foot store at 8483 Melrose Place mixes some design innovations from the brand’s London store with contemporary and traditional interior features. Upon entering the store, there are an array of colorful suitcases from the brand’s Centenary, Original and Deluxe collections as well as collaboration models with international brands including Rowing Blazers, Disney and Tyler.
The store is also carrying the “No Time to Die” collection, featured in the 2021 James Bond movie with actor Daniel Craig.
For the new L.A. store, Globe-Trotter created the Melrose luggage capsule collection, which is only available at the store. It features a range of classic Globe-Trotter styles with leather trim in three L.A.-inspired colors (yellow, holiday orange and moss), and a multicolored palm-tree motif lining the interior of each piece alongside the Globe-Trotter North Star logo. Globe-Trotter is known for putting its logo inside its carrying pieces instead of on the exterior, which appeals to people who prefer to be more discreet about their luggage brands.
The Melrose collection comes in four pieces: a handbag-sized London square, an attaché briefcase, a carry-on case and a larger check-in model.
Most luxury brands setting up a new establishment in Los Angeles would choose tony Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills to unveil their offerings. But Castellano said there were a few factors that made the English company select Melrose Place, which is another high-end shopping street.
“It was more about what was available for a reasonable rent and in a space that is good for us,” he said. “It is not that one street is better than the other.”
Since the store opened at the end of June, the Globe-Trotter CEO said traffic hasn’t been huge, but it has been good in attracting quality customers coming through the doors. “We have a very good selection of people who are aware of the brand, and then there are people to whom it is totally new, and they have just discovered it by passing by.”
More U.S. stores could be coming, particularly to New York. “We wanted some time to understand the [New York] landscape and retail landscapes in other markets more before we consider additional locations,” Castellano said.
The company’s top market is in Japan, Europe is its second largest market with the U.S. in third.
“Japan since March has been recovering really well, but COVID-19 cases are growing again. So, we will have to monitor the situation. The Japanese are very cautious right now,” said Castellano, a Spanish businessman who years ago was the licensee and international director for Pepe Jeans, a Spanish denim label.
The COVID-19 pandemic and near global shutdown in early 2020 had a major economic effect on Globe-Trotter, as the business is dependent on the travel industry and international jet setters.
The COVID-19 shutdown also happened at the time Oakley Capital, a London private equity firm, acquired the majority share of the brand for an undisclosed sum from entrepreneur Toshiyasu Takubo. “We signed and closed the deal in mid-March ,” recalled Castellano, who is also an operating partner in Oakley Capital. “But we came into this brand with a long-term view. We feel the brand is not about the first couple of years.”
Nevertheless, Globe-Trotter’s revenues nosedived 30 percent to 40 percent in 2020. For the fiscal year closing March 2023, Castellano said revenues are expected to mushroom 50 percent above what they were when Oakley Capital acquired the enterprise.
The pandemic forced the company to shut down its factory with 150 employees in England for three months. But Globe-Trotter launched an e-commerce site and employees started developing new products.
At the top of those innovations was a four-wheel trolley in both a carry-on and checked bag size. It was different from the two-wheel trolley model. The company also introduced watch cases, attachés and scaled-down vanity cases that can double as a woman’s handbag. The luggage label also fashioned a series of storage cases — some produced with knitwear designer Bella Freud.
Globe-Trotter has a long history. It was founded in Germany in 1897 by British businessman David Nelken, who developed a technique for manufacturing suitcases employing vulcanized fiberboard. Using 14 layers of specially formulated paper, the cases were lightweight but strong.
Just to show how strong their products were, Globe-Trotter in 1912 borrowed an elephant from the Zoological Gardens of Hamburg to stand on top of a cabin trunk — with the image shown in a catalogue touting how a cabin trunk can withstand the weight of a one-ton pachyderm.
In 1932, the company moved to England where Globe-Trotter luggage has been manufactured ever since.