elling Samsonite luggage and other
travel accessories since 1998 has represented a small windfall for
CompuTravel, a Port St. John, Fla., agency which posted nearly $1.4
million in gross sales last year, owner Dave Ivey reported.
When United instituted the international commission caps in
1998, recalled Ivey, "I tried to put myself in my clients' shoes
and wondered what it'd be like buying a ticket from my agency.
"I came up with the idea of not just being an agency but a
complete travel store -- which is our motto.
"People are coming around to the understanding that we really do
fit their every travel need," he said.
It was the commission cuts that opened Ivey's eyes to the true
"value of my agency," he said.
According to Ivey, the "profit potential" for selling luggage is
much greater than selling air tickets, as the usual markup on
luggage is 40% to 50%, compared with a 5% markup on tickets.
"I make $50 on a sale of a $120 piece of luggage vs. a $6 profit
on the same sale of an airline ticket. It's a no-brainer."
Last year, CompuTravel rang up more than $5,000 in luggage
sales, he said.
Focusing clients' attention on the luggage is not a problem.
Ivey positioned sample pieces in a front area of his
Having a client ratio of 70% leisure/30% business has been good
for luggage sales, Ivey said, adding that cruise passengers are the
big spenders on baggage, with aircraft carry-on pieces among the
In addition to luggage, the agency sells Samsonite travel
These include travel irons, shoe covers, luggage locks, suitcase
straps, money exchange calculators, alarm clocks, neck pillows,
pouches, raincoats and document holders.
"I thought about selling books and maps but decided against it
because the inventory ages, and I didn't want the worry of having
to move inventory," Ivey said.
"We tried disposable cameras, but they didn't sell very well --
too much competition at the local drug store and Wal-Mart."
However, the agency sells foreign currencies and travelers
checks, racking up about $10,000 in sales for those two items last
year. Ivey said he expects to surpass that figure this year.
Texas-based EZForex supplies both the foreign currency and
American Express Travelers Cheques. The profit from each category
is about 6%, Ivey said.
CompuTravel also sells Travelguard insurance.
Moreover, Ivey said, EZForex sends the currency and checks
directly to his clients, unless they specifically ask the agency to
receive it, so safe storage is not a big problem.
-- Henry Magenheim
A case for selling luggage
f you're thinking of adding a
luggage line to top off earnings, Dave Ivey, owner of CompuTravel
in Port St. John, Fla., who sells baggage and travel accessories
out of his agency, has some advice.
To advertise the product, Ivey uses ticket stuffers, runs ads in
the local newspaper aimed at people buying gifts for graduating
students and uses direct-mail pieces.
But word of mouth is the best form of advertising, he said.
The agency, located on U.S. 1, has an estimated 35,000 motorists
driving by it daily. To draw the attention of these potential
customers, Ivey uses big banners (at $100 each) to announce his
The banners resemble mini-billboards and provide "more daily
exposure than the Yellow Pages and are much cheaper," Ivey
"Cruise passengers are perhaps my biggest luggage clientele
because they have to pack for seven days or longer, and they always
need a new piece of luggage."
Ivey said he selected Samsonite (which owns American Tourister)
because "I wanted my agency to be affiliated with quality.
"All our luggage is sold off the floor. If I don't have a
particular piece, it takes about three or four days to get it in my
office from the Jacksonville (Fla.) storehouse," he said.
The prices of the luggage Ivey sells range from $39.95 for
carry-on totes to $189.95 for 36-inch roller bags.
In addition to a floor display, Ivey has devoted a portion of
the agency's window display to the luggage.
The agency's three consultants are qualified to sell luggage,
and they earn a commission on each sale.
But there are some negatives to luggage sales, according to
Ivey. "Sales tax is a slight burden, but it's not bad if you have a
good recordkeeping system," Ivey said.
"The only [real] negative is rearranging the office every few
weeks so clients get a new view every time they come in."
Selling: More than a numbers game
ou've heard it said: "Selling
is a numbers game." Make the calls, make the presentations, work
your way through enough people and eventually you will make a
I'm not saying this is totally false, but volume alone does not
necessarily produce success.
And even if it does, it's the hard way.
I like to think of sales as a game of darts. By aiming your
effort (the dart) at a defined target (your dartboard) your chances
of hitting the mark (a sale) are greatly enhanced.
Contrast that mind-set with a pure numbers game, like throwing a
handful of marbles up in the air hoping one or two land in a paper
If you want to save time, money and frustration, know who you
would like to do business with.
Your chance for success is much greater if you direct your
efforts toward a list of defined prospects. This concept is called
Targeting in sales involves channeling some effort in the
direction of a specific goal (your specified prospects).
Then watch what happens, make an adjustment, and try it
Keep on tweaking until you have a method that results in the
prospect becoming a client.
Here is a specific sales targeting exercise you can try:
• Make a list of five qualified prospects you have decided you
would like to do business with.
• Write down three ways you can improve awareness of your
products or services among these prospects.
• Initiate the awareness program and record your results from
the first-round attempt.
• Now, make some adjustments to the program and try again
(either on the same five prospects or on a new set of five). Record
and adjust again. Continue until you are, as the pros say, "in the
• Finally, apply your refined method to a new group of targeted
Let others waste their time chasing raw numbers. Identify your
target and make it your business to go get 'em.
There will be very little luck to your sales campaign.
Mike Marchev is a motivational speaker and author of the
sales book "Become the Exception." To receive his free Monday
Morning Marketing Messages, e-mail him at [email protected]
and include the word "list."