Talking Totes: Breaking Down The Surge In Demand


It's official: Shopping totes are in big demand. In fact, the category is experiencing its strongest growth in at least five years, according to A.J. Dickson, PCNA Global Category Director For Bags And Travel.

Lots of factors are contributing to the demand, one of which is grocery stores and other retailers branding and selling their own reusable totes – a trend with three obvious benefits:

+ Generates revenue through bag sales

+ Generates brand impressions outside the stores

+ Reduces environmental harm caused by single-use plastic bags

So what's the big picture? We chatted with A.J. to find out why totes have suddenly taken off. 

Q: How have recent supply-chain challenges affected demand for our totes?

A: Yeah, there can be some long lead times getting product from other places in the world. Bags from China, you could be waiting three or four months for your order. We're keeping deep stock domestically in a variety of price points and materials. And if you need it fast, most of the styles can be shipped the next day with SureShip®.

Q: Long-term, what trends will drive sustained demand?

A: Plastic bag bans. More and more cities are outlawing them, and Canada has proposed a ban on single-use plastics across the entire country. We know the environmental impact; that's pretty obvious. On top of that, some retailers are discontinuing them voluntarily. So that's obviously a key trend – ditching disposable.

FACT: It's estimated that the average American uses 300 single-use plastics per year. About 1% are returned for recycling.

Q: Anything else aside from the environmental angle?

A: Definitely. Brands want to be associated with reusability and are creating their own bags. Lululemon is a great example – their bags are almost like a status symbol. Same with SoulCycle, and it's just a laminated bag. People want to show off they're not using disposable bags. They'll use them for work, going to the gym or shopping.  

SM-7766 All-Purpose 5oz Cotton Canvas Tote

A: Cotton is our fastest-growing segment. It's part of the trend toward natural materials and more natural color palettes. And recycled cotton has been huge for us, really taking that eco-conscious idea to another level. With recycled cotton, you're keeping tons and tons of cotton out of landfills by taking scraps left over from manufacturing other products and turning it into something useful.

FACT: Based on the number of recycled-cotton bags sold, PCNA has prevented an estimated 15 tons of cotton from going to landfills.

SM-7209 Stay Cool Event Cooler

Q: OK, last one. Look into your crystal ball. What trend could you see taking off in the next couple months?

A: Insulated tote-style bags could get some traction with summer picnic season around the corner. There’s also been a major uptick in food delivery, and insulated bags are great for both grocery delivery and takeout from restaurants. The real nice thing about insulated bags is they're so easy to clean.