Popular New York City-based travel and lifestyle brand Away — known particularly for its innovative luggage — has opened its first standalone store in Canada at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre. The direct-to-consumer brand is likely to open more stores in Canada as it also sells through its online channels and social media.
NEW STANDALONE AWAY LUGGAGE STORE AT YORKDALE IS ONLY THE BEGINNING FOR BRAND’S CANADIAN EXPANSION
The Yorkdale Away location spans more than 2,880 square feet on one level, and features a unique design inspired by travel. That includes a double-height metallic facade with mock airplane windows above the glass storefront. The interior of the store includes light wood shelving and flooring that contrasts with bright artwork such as large postcards on the walls. The overall design evokes travel — something Canadians will hopefully be able to do comfortably in the future following this year’s pandemic.
The Away store is located in Yorkdale’s 2016 expansion wing that is anchored by Nordstrom. Away replaced a Woolrich store which opened in 2017. Richard Johnson of Odyssey Retail Advisors in New York City negotiated the lease deal on behalf of Away. Oxford Properties is the landlord for Yorkdale Shopping Centre.
The direct-to-consumer brand is being distributed in Canada through the Yorkdale store as well as online through the company’s website, with ample social media promotion. Away only sells through its own channels which means that more stores could open in Canada to act as brand activations. The Vancouver and Montreal markets could be targets for stores, though the expansion may be delayed given COVID-19. The Yorkdale lease was signed prior to the pandemic shutting the economy down in March of this year.
Away produces and markets a range of travel accessories. Its best-known suitcases featuring ejectable batteries for charging 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.
Away was founded by Stephanie Korey and Jennifer Rubio in New York City in 2015 as a digitally native brand. The company has since expanded into physical retail with its own stores, avoiding wholesale distribution. Ms. Korey holds the title of CEO while Ms. Rubio is Away’s Chief Brand Officer (Ms. Korey was to depart amid controversy this summer but that has since changed).
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, which has also expanded into Canada. 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.
AWAY LUGGAGE HAS ENJOYED CONSIDERABLE INVESTMENTS MAKING PHYSICAL RETAIL EXPANSION EASIER
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.
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.
Away currently operates 12 standalone stores globally (including the Toronto store), each featuring attractive and bright interiors. Nine are in the United States and one is in London, UK. A store in New York City’s NoHo area at 10 Bond Street acts as the brand’s flagship, and a second store is located at 111 N. 3rd Street in Brooklyn. Away also operates storefronts in Los Angeles (8400 Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood), San Francisco (371 Hayes Street), Chicago (1121 N. State Street in the affluent Gold Coast area), Boston (50 Seaport Boulevard in the city’s up-and-coming Seaport neighbourhood), Houston (Highland Village at 4033 Westheimer Road), Dallas (3109 Knox Street), and a unit at the Domain retail complex in Austin, Texas. The London flagship, located at 9 Earlham Street in the city’s Covent Garden area, was Away’s first international storefront when it opened in August of 2018.
COVID-19 is changing the way that many retailers do business. Many multi-brand retailers are struggling following temporary store closures and continue to grapple with paying vendors while maintaining insurance for deliveries. As a result, some brands are looking to instead go off on their own which means we may see more brands opening standalone stores while also expanding online sales, with less distribution in multi-brand retailers in years to come. The trend was already happening with brands such as Nike, Canada Goose and Christian Dior, and the trend is expected to be accelerated further into 2021 and beyond.