High-quality suitcases and travel accessories for individualists – that is what the brand Suitsuit stands for. The products of the Dutch company are mobile and diversified marketing instruments for a variety of industries.
It is a truism that travelling widens one’s horizon and many ideas have been hatched en route as well as from behind a desk. In the case of Emile Vijlbrief the idea was to turn suitcases into advertising messages. “Before I turned self-employed, I had occupied many positions in the marketing business, among others at A.T. Cross and I travelled a lot,” explained the founder, co-owner and CEO of Suitsuit. “One day it occurred to me: A suitcase offers around 2 m² of surface that could be used for advertising purposes. Whereas, for example, advertising space at the airport costs a lot of money and is limited to one location, suitcases are ‘on the road’. So, I began developing individualised suitcase sleeves made of fabric – which we still sell today – and founded my company Suitsuit in 2008.“ Shortly afterwards Suitsuit added whole suitcases to the product range, after the phase of looking for producers including several “teething problems” in the product development area, the company was soon able to individualise models to meet the customer’s requirements. “We were successful from the very beginning,” stated Vijlbrief. “I won an innovation award at the PromZ in Utrecht with my cases in 2010 and after the show we could hardly keep up with the demand.“
However, instead of riding the wave of success and overexploiting his product idea, Vijlbrief had a concept in mind that he had been developing for a long time: “I quickly noticed that it is not very sustainable – and not very appealing – to just sell suitcases – one is interchangeable, especially considering the numerous competitives and copycats. So I began to develop a brand and also launched it on the retail sector. My aim is to establish Suitsuit as a leading brand for fashionable, high-quality luggage and travel accessories of unmistakable design.” After just under five years, Suitsuit already enjoys a high degree of recognition within the retail trade: Suitsuit cases are available in 26 countries, the company sells 100,000 a year in the meantime. The B2C market accounts for 70% of the turnover, which amounted to around 4.2 mil. Euros in 2014. Suitsuit products are sold by big department store chains and the company has already opened up several flagship stores.
Attention to detail
At the beginning of the year, the company moved into its new headquarters in Soest, the Netherlands, where in total 12 people are employed. An own graphic team drafts designs that are oriented on the respective seasonal trends, albeit clearly for fashion-conscious individualists. Several collections are launched onto the market each year – incidentally the retail market focuses on the female target group: “We are a little schizophrenic,” joked Vijlbrief. “Whereas we naturally align our products to meet the target group on the promotional products market, we are developing a decidedly female brand for the retail sector. Many luggage item brands are defined and marketed using “masculine” arguments such as the amount of wheels, weight, etc. Women on the other hand tend to be more interested in how many extra compartments there are to ensure a careful packing process. We want to cater to these needs.” Attention to detail is also the order of day for the company in the B2B segment. As haptic advertisers, Suitsuit products offer a multitude of individualising options that quite literally enable the accurate transportation of messages. In addition to the core product, the suitcase, the Dutch company’s portfolio still encompasses suitcase sleeves that are full-surface imprinted using the sublimation method as well as a host of matching accessories such as travel cushions, tablet cases or laptop sleeves. Firms ranging from food manufacturers, to fashion chains, through to football clubs and concert organisers already successfully rely on Suitsuit products as advertising messengers – whether as a customer loyalty instrument or employee incentive, as a premium gift or in particular also as a merchandising item.
Quality and safety
Whether the retail collection or an individual project realised in cooperation with B2B customers: One thing all Suitsuit products have in common is their no compromising quality. “We offer a ten year guarantee on our cases and only implement high-quality components,” commented Vijlbrief. “The wheels are made by the leading manufacturer Hinamoto, the zips by the top quality producer, YKK. All models feature a TSA lock, an aluminium trolley frame with a steel interior as well as walls that are 2 mm thicker than the industry standard.“ Suitsuit opened up its own office in Hangzhou in West China in 2013, where a team of eight people coordinate the cooperation with the Chinese producers. First of all, a design draft is drawn up in Soest in close cooperation with the customer and using 3D simulation. The approved design is then sent to Hangzhou, where it is prepared for the offset print.
Firstly, at least 250 m of polycarbonate film run through the printing machine in order to guarantee the most accurate colour match possible. Then the film is transferred onto the ABS sheet material, which is subsequently heated to bring it into shell form. The finished shells are then assembled to suitcases on a production line. This ensures that the customer ultimately receives a high-resolution, true-to-colour, scratch-proof and extremely durable printing result. It is possible to manufacture an individual case for minimum quantities of just 200 pieces – from the colour and design of the shell, to the interior and that within six to eight weeks. “We are only in a position to enable this standard of quality and conditions, because we have signed the corresponding framework agreements,” said Vijlbrief. “All of the manufacturers are contractually committed to produce within a predefined time span. Furthermore, we test all of the assembly parts in advance to ensure their conformity with the Reach guideline and they are stored on-site in adequate quantities. By offering such an ‘all-round carefree package’, we avoid getting involved in price discussions and establish long-term contacts. Because customers, who are initially price-oriented, don’t want any reclamations, but instead a high-quality and most importantly a safe product. Many of our customers are highly-sensitive concerning not only the quality, but also the production conditions and they have strict stipulations, which we partly overfulfil. All factories we work together with are certified according to the Smeta standards (Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit).” Own warehouses in Shanghai, Rotterdam and Soest enable an effective international fulfilment.
Ideas en masse
In addition to the cases that are custom-made or produced on demand, Suitsuit also offers a range of warehouse stock for the promotional products market: Companies that want to offer their customers individually imprinted cases in small order quantities and at a more favourable price, have the opportunity to choose from four standard colours. The Stickercases are available from stock in the Netherlands for order quantities of ten pieces upwards and are customised in Soest with a large-surface vinyl sticker. These extremely durable stickers also offer a high-resolution printing result, remain firmly adhered for a long time and can be personalised for orders of one piece upwards – a great opportunity for many areas of application. Vijlbrief gave an example: “The Dutch online shop Bol.com added luggage items to its collection in the summer of 2014. To mark the occasion, a like & win campaign was launched on Facebook, in the course of which 400 Stickercases were raffled off, which we personalised with the individual name of the winner and dispatched.”
That is just one of many examples of in which diversified ways Suitsuit products can be integrated into marketing campaigns. An array of further case studies can be found in the catalogue that Suitsuit produces for the B2B market. For example, an ice-cream brand implemented a branded suitcase cover during the summer and travel season as an onpack, an offer that many holiday-makers took advantage of and which thus generated a great deal of visual contact in the right environment and among the right target group. Heinz Ketchup on the other hand sent out a suitcase in Heinz design that was filled with its own products as a very special gift hamper at Christmas. Exciting new projects are already in the pipeline – for example for customers in the music business. Vijlbrief: “It is not just about selling cases for us – we want to convey to our customers the manifold ways they can communicate their brand messages using our products. And the more customers we can convince, the more our own brand travels around the world.”