Tumi Ups Fashion Quotient

Tumi, with David Chu at the creative helm, is repositioning itself as a larger, more fashionable player in the luxury market.

NEW YORK — Tumi is updating its image. With men’s wear veteran David Chu at the creative helm, the upscale luggage and accessories maker is repositioning itself as a larger, more fashionable player in the luxury market with a new advertising campaign, expanded product offerings and an updated retail concept.

The brand’s redesigned Madison Avenue boutique, which had a soft opening 10 days ago, debuted Chu’s stylish vision for what is to become Tumi’s signature look. Enormous red Murano glass chandeliers accent soft cream-colored walls and sleek new fixtures. Design elements, including polished macassar ebony, nickel, and limestone floors with granite trim, evoke the art deco era, but with an updated modern touch.

“I wanted the interiors to communicate a mood of luxury and style,” said Chu. “I strove to create an environment that was warm, inviting and luxurious in a discreet fashion.”

The clean aesthetic of the roughly 2,000-square-foot space marks a stark departure from the somewhat-congested layout of the store before its redesign. The new model is scheduled to roll out to Amsterdam and Hamburg, Germany, in September, followed by London’s Canary Wharf in November.

CEO Laurence Franklin was optimistic about the new look. “The new store design supports both the luxurious and dynamic directions the brand is headed in, and we anticipate it will continue to drive the growth of Tumi.”

The company rang up total sales in excess of $350 million in 2006, and executives estimate sales of over $2,000 a square foot at boutiques featuring Chu’s new format—a projection which the Madison Avenue store has already exceeded since its opening, according to Rick Palmage, vice-president of retail development. But with Chu now on board as executive creative director, Franklin hopes to significantly accelerate that growth, particularly on the women’s end.

“Our business is split 70 percent men’s to 30 percent women’s, and the store further supports our drive to increase the business in women’s,” Franklin said.

The softer and more feminine store format appeals to women and effectively showcases Chu’s latest creations for females: fashionable handbags and totes in luxe materials like napa leather. Palmage said that although they want to double the women’s business from what it has been in the past, the company is also executing growth initiatives in its men’s division. “Initially, the luxury division [versus regular luggage] for men was about 5 percent of our business and now we think it could be about 15 percent,” said Palmage.

Chu has created a new luxury collection for men called Townhouse, which Palmage expects to boost sales 8 to 10 percent in the luxury division. The line, which will debut to the press later this month and hit store floors in the fourth quarter, features vintage details like buckles, polished nickeled hardware and leather accents.

A trunk from the Townhouse collection is featured in Tumi’s latest ad campaign—another indication of the brand’s attempt to reposition itself. Photographer Michael Thompson and director David Lipman came together to create artistic, stylized images that will present Tumi as a true fashion brand.