Sep 14, 2018 | By WGSN Insider
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Oct 27, 2016
We’ve all heard it by now: Millennials are more interested in experiences than goods. They are spending their money on concerts and travel (and not clothes) – and retailers are freaking out. Enter: Away – an innovative new luggage brand that has built its company around an age-old counter-argument: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel (which they do but let’s get to that later) they have created a product that complements all this travel that consumers are doing – instead of trying to compete with it. Killer concept right? Well it gets better….
The brainchild of former Casper Mattress and Warby Parker supply chain head Steph Korey and former global head of innovation at AllSaints Jen Rubio, Away does for luggage what Casper did for mattresses – a one and done product that takes the guess work out of shopping. In other words, they have addressed all of our current concerns with travel in one suitcase, and done it at a fraction of the price. Oh and did I mention that it charges your phone?
The a-ha moment for Away came not so long ago, resulting from a personal travel experience gone awry and the frustrating (and confusing) ordeal of buying luggage. “There wasn’t a clear advantage to one suitcase over another, the $40 suitcases were positioned right next to the $400 suitcases. The whole experience was overwhelming,” explains Steph. “We wanted to take the noise out of travelling and make it as seamless and enjoyable as possible.” The duo who had previously worked together at Warby decided to take matters into their own hands.
The research and design process began the old-fashioned way – with surveys. Reaching out to friends and friends-of-friends they developed a diverse group of people to poll on all things travel. The idea was to suss out not only what one wants from a suitcase, but what is generally frustrating when you travel. The results changed the game. “We asked about pain points in the travel process, and while luggage was the main concern, so many people mentioned charging their phones at the airport as an annoying travel problem. It wasn’t the initial intention of the surveys, but we thought maybe we can solve this problem. Why not?”
After more than a year in development, the initial product launched in November of 2015. The result was a hard-shell carry-on suitcase that can charge your phone from 0-100% up to five times before needing to be rebooted. In addition, it offers a removable waterproof laundry bag, a compression pad which allows you to cram in as much as possible, and silent 360-degree wheels which are unheard of for a suitcase that retails under $1,000. The Away carry-on suitcase? It retails for $225. You do the math.
So what’s next for the company that’s secured over $2.5 million in seed funding from investors as varied as Jay-Z? Well for starters they’re planting some brick and mortar roots. After a successful pop-up shop in New York City this past May, they’ve officially opened a permanent location in SoHo. “The response to the pop-up was incredible. We saw triple the sales in-store as we had seen previously on-line. Being able to touch and feel the product was important for our customers.”
The retail spaces follow a similar ethos to their online persona – less is more. While the original carry-on product has been expanded to include three additional sizes, the store revolves around a rather spartan concept. A few carefully curated third-party products such as rejuvenating face mist and bluetooth headphones round out the product assortment.
With an existing pop-up in London and another planned for LA in November, Away is targeting the cities that show them the most e-commerce love. Expect more cities to follow in the coming year. As for product? Plan on the team keeping it simple but keeping it pushing. “We really listen to our customers and their suggestions. The outpouring of gratitude has been immense. We want to hear what they want next.”
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