The Age, News, 17/08/2017 photo by Justin McManus. Backpacks, workers and communters. Hot-desking and hands-free account for a growth in communter backpacks. The Age, News, 17/08/2017 photo by Justin McManus. Backpacks, workers and communters. Hot-desking and hands-free account for a growth in communter backpacks. Craig Gorin.
The Age, News, 17/08/2017 photo by Justin McManus. Backpacks, workers and communters. Hot-desking and hands-free account for a growth in communter backpacks.
Athina Mavromataki is on the commuting juggle with a bag of breakfast in her left hand and carrying her phone in the other.
Over both shoulders sits a backpack, an item that has become an increasing part of the professional workplace uniform thanks to hot-desking and our ever-present smartphones.
“The convenience of being hands free is the main reason I wear it. I used to carry a shoulder bag [but] it was just annoying, always seemed to get in the way. And I couldn’t put as much stuff in it,” librarian Mavromataki tells Fairfax Media in Melbourne CBD’s Degraves Street on her way to work.
Bag makers have certainly seen a change.
Adam Wilkinson, chief executive at Crumpler, says smartphones are a key part of the 30 per cent growth in sales the company has seen from backpacks in the past year.
“The major influence in the popularity of backpacks is the ability [to be hands-free] to use your smart phone. The functionality [of a pack] is extremely important as laptops are a necessity of life,” he says.
With a Fairfax Media estimated turnover of $20-30 million, Crumpler’s now makes about 35 per cent of its total sales from backpacks.
Crumpler projects sales of 60,000-80,000 backpacks in the coming year, which the company estimates would place it in the top five backpack retailers in the marketplace.
“A big trend towards a compact style of backpack. [Commuters] want to carry everything in a slimmer or more fashionable pack. It is just as functional but slightly more compact,” he says.
Wilkinson believes hot-desking has also definitely impacted on Crumpler’s products and customers. He says the flexibility of the workforce and the need for employees to carry laptops, chargers and paperwork to the office is a major driver of its backpack sales.
Project manager Craig Gorin works in a hot-desk office and chose his Herschel backpack because it is lightweight, compact and “fits on the floor between his feet when the tram or train is crowded, making phone calls or sipping coffee easy”.
When Fairfax Media meets the 40-year-old on his way to work he is laptop-free, with only his gym gear in his backpack.
Officeworks merchandise business manager technology Sandy Young says the company is “seeing the fashion trend for backpacks definitely crossing over into the work world ??? with more slimline styles that combine fashionability along with the functionality of laptop and tablet storage pockets”.
According to Young, Officeworks has enjoyed a 25 per cent lift in the past year in backpack sales with an average price of each backpack between $70 and $80.
“This is a trend that started slowly about 18 months ago and in the most recent six months has really taken off,” he says.
Event planner Katherina Ludwikowski has been wearing her backpack for over two years because it is “much better than a handbag, it’s good for the back”.
“Lugging a laptop in a backpack is the best way to get it to and from work,” says the 28-year-old who is also a hot-desk worker.
It also means she can easily use her smart phone.
She’s right about the back issue as well, turns out osteopaths prefer backpacks to handbags.
“Backpacks create a symmetrical force through the body as opposed to an asymmetrical force caused by carrying a handbag in one hand or over one shoulder. A lot of neck issues arise from carrying handbags,” says Osteopathy Australia CEO Antony Nicholas.