AWAY Luggage Brand to Enter Canada with 1st Standalone Store

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Popular New York City-based travel and lifestyle brand Away, known particularly for its innovative luggage, has secured its first retail space as it enters the Canadian market with plans for multiple locations. The digitally native brand has launched a brick-and-mortar expansion that will see it open new standalone storefronts globally.

The first Canadian Away storefront will open within the next few weeks at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre in a 2,880-square-foot space in the mall’s 2016 expansion wing. Away’s store will be located between another digitally native retailer, Warby Parker, and a relatively new AllSaints storefront. Away will replace a Woolrich flagship store which shuttered several months ago – Woolrich entered the Canadian market in December of 2017 with plans for multiple locations which never materialized. Richard Johnson of Odyssey Retail Advisors in New York City is said to have been working with Away on its real estate selection.

Away was founded by Stephanie Korey and Jennifer Rubio in New York City in 2015 as an online direct-to-consumer brand. The company has since expanded into physical retail with its own stores, utilizing a strategy where it sells directly to consumers rather than utilize wholesalers and distributors. Mr. Korey holds the title of CEO while Ms. Rubio is Away’s Chief Brand Officer. Away is said to be one of the highest-funded female-backed startups in history.

MAP OF YORKDALE SHOPPING CENTRE
CONSTRUCTION ON THE NEW AWAY LUGGAGE RETAIL SPACE AT TORONTO’S YORKDALE SHOPPING CENTRE. PHOTO: CRAIG PATTERSON

Ms. Korey and Ms. Rubio met in 2011 as former colleagues on the early executive team at New York City-based eyewear brand Warby Parker. The duo founded Away in 2015 and in November of that year, they received $2.5-million in seed funding from investors Accel Partners and Forerunner Ventures. Away released a book called ‘The Places We Return To’ which featured travel stories from 40 unique and influential people around the world, and the book was sold with a gift card to purchase the company’s first product, ‘The Carry-On’, which launched in February of 2016.

Millions more in funding was subsequently secured as Away expanded into editorial content with the launch of a podcast called Airplane Mode in the spring of 2017, which was followed two months later with a digital travel magazine called ‘Here’ which includes city guides, travel essays, and photo journals. Fast Company recognized Away as one of “2018’s Top-10 Most Innovative Companies” and CNN has referred to the brand as being ‘Instagram’s favourite suitcase’.

Away produces and markets a range of travel accessories. Its best-known suitcases featuring ejectable batteries for changing devices, scratch-resistant polycarbonate shells, interior organization featuring compression pads for space efficiency, TSA-approved locks, a removable laundry bag, and 360-degree Hinomoto spinner wheels. The popular Carry-On model was developed after consulting with focus groups, with the responses from hundreds of travellers used to perfect its design. Additional Away travel accessories include: The Everywhere Bag, The Signature Garment Bag, The Dopp Kit, and The Insider Packing Cubes. Away has collaborated with brands such as Madewell, NBA, and Star Wars, among others, and the brand has also partnered to support various charitable endeavours. All Away luggage products have lifetime guarantees.

PHOTO: AWAY FACEBOOK

In May of last year, Away secured a $100-million investment to reach a total valuation of $1.4-billion. The funding round was led by Wellington Management as well as Baillie Gifford, Lone Pine Capital, and Global Founders Capital. That money will go towards an expansion of direct-to-consumer brick-and-mortar stores as well as an expansion of Away’s travel gear offerings.

Controversy recently ensued amid claims of a ‘toxic culture’ at Away which resulted in Ms. Korey announcing that she was stepping away from the company. A new CEO, Stuart Haselden was announced as her replacement. On January 13 of this year, Ms. Korey announced that she had changed her mind and that she would share the CEO title with Mr. Haselden. Away’s human resources chief Erin Grau is said to have quit the same day out of frustration.

Away has set sights on Canada as a market for expansion with more locations. Last year we were notified that Away was seeking to expand into Toronto with a storefront on Queen Street West, with a targeted size between 2,000 and 2,500 square feet. Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville area was also said to be a target at the time. Other major cities in Canada including Vancouver are also expected to be part of Away’s expansion with details to follow.

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