Byline: Marc Karimzadeh

NEW YORK — Tumi, the 26-year-old company known for its signature black nylon and napa leather luggage and soft briefcases, has spread its wings.
Customers visiting a Tumi store will find a surprising dash of bright colors and soft shapes among the expected sea of luggage. This new buzz comes from the company’s recent expansion into a line of women’s small leather goods.
For Tumi, the first foray into women’s accessories was a travel collection of nylon and napa leather luggage, cosmetic cases and computer brief totes for fall 2000. This spring, the company has added two more lines, Emeline and Dahlia. These consist of handbags, totes and personal accessories designed for women. In addition, there is a new collection of two-tone accessories in soft glove leather.
Laurence Franklin, Tumi’s president, said that Tumi is regarded as a leading luggage company, but a significant portion of its sales are in non-luggage categories.
Women have accounted for about 25 percent of Tumi’s costumer base for luggage or gift purchases, he added.
Tumi’s Emeline line includes a line called Flat Shopper, which features phone and business card pockets, a pen loop and a key fisher, which is a strap of leather fixed to the inside of the bag with a clip hook to attach keys with.
Each Emeline handbag or tote is made with Italian microfiber fabric and calfskin. Most designs are available in black, brown or gray. There is also a separate Emeline accessories collection featuring 12 styles, including checkbook and palm pilot cases in black microfiber and calfskin.
The Dahlia line consists of soft leather handbags with contrasting silk satin linings, top handles and tie closures, in either black, a light gray, pink, yellow or sandy beige.
The suggested retail price range for women’s accessories is $150 for handbags to $450 for business cases. While Franklin declined to give projected volume figures, he said the company expects women’s lines to account for approximately 10 percent of total brand sales in three years.
“Our goal is to [grow the line] in a slow and steady fashion to expand awareness and presence,” he said.
The women’s line is currently being distributed in selected department and better specialty stores.
It also is being sold through the growing number of freestanding Tumi stores the company has been rolling out across the U.S. over the past two years.
There are currently 18 Tumi stores, including Rockefeller Center in New York and South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif. Most new stores operate in partnership with luggage retailers. While Tumi takes an active role in the merchandising, design and brand presentation, the stores are run by the retailers familiar with Tumi through their own luggage specialty stores.
The new stores are bright with clean lines in a simple palette of white, brushed steel, light-colored wood and a silver gray fabric. Franklin said the company anticipates its retail expansion to result in up to 50 U.S. stores in five years.