Away Rolls Out Soft-Side Luggage in a Quest to Gain More Market Share

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Six months after raising $100 million, landing unicorn status (valued at $1.4 billion), the digitally native brand Away is looking to dominate the soft-side luggage market in the same way it became a household name in hard luggage.

For the past four years, Away has built out a market for hard-side luggage with heavy content marketing, advertising and good old word-of-mouth. But now, Selena Kalvaria, svp of brand, said it’s time for Away to tackle the soft-side market and respond to consumer demand—of which she says, 50% of consumers prefer soft-side to hard-side.

“[It took] a ton of time developing, and for us it was really about getting it right,” Kalvaria said. “This was a data- and customer feedback-driven decision, and we think our community will be excited to see it.”

According to a Rakuten Intelligence report from October 2018, Away accounted for 16% of total luggage revenue, ahead of other brands like Samsonite at 11%. However, Samsonite still pulls ahead in terms of how much product it sells, and leads luggage makers by 7.9%. But that only represents Away’s entry into hard-side luggage. Enter “The Expandables,” Away’s newest line of soft luggage that comes with a built-in zip to expand the suitcase up to 4.5 centimeters. It’s available in four different colors starting Oct. 10 and comes in a carry-on, bigger carry-on, medium and large size, retailing between $275-$345. Part of what’s alluring about the soft-side luggage—in addition to it representing a product that Away customers have asked for—is the ability to expand the luggage, which Kalvaria says gives consumers a chance to pack something extra or stay another night wherever they are.

“We’re really trying to transform every piece of travel and allow travel to transform them,” Kalvaria said.

Away is rolling out a ‘One More Night’ experiential activation in five hotels.

To convey this “expandability” feature, Away’s rolling out a “One More Night” experiential activation in five hotels across New York, Austin, Los Angeles, Toronto and London. In each hotel, Away’s giving away the Expandable Carry-On to a mix of customers and influencers, as well as specific offerings in each city to give them “one more” chance to do something new. For example, in New York, those selected will receive a a treat from Milk Bar or a souvenir from the MoMA store.

Kalvaria declined to share the exact number of people the brand’s giving away the luggage and these experiences to, other than it was about finding “the right people to experience the product firsthand and how will they amplify it to the people who follow them.” Away plans on first measuring the success of the activation by looking at revenue and web traffic, as well as social engagement and click through. Kalvaria added that Away plans on emphasizing certain features of the soft-side luggage that it hasn’t done with the hard-side to capture a new audience, such as its compression system.

“What we set [out] to do is really disrupt the luggage market as a whole,” Kalvaria said. “We’ve been able to build an incredible amount of market share and awareness that surpasses a lot of incumbents in the market. What’s unique in soft-side is this concept of expandability—for us that’s an extra two nights of clothes, extra souvenirs.”

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