The couple behind the bag that sold out in two minutes

New York
CNN Business

In 2020, when the pandemic brought all non-essential travel to a halt, Amy and Jason Richter had to think fast. They ran a thriving company called Lug that sold fun travel bags and accessories and had a growing number of fans, including Oprah.

But with the travel ban coming into effect, families succumbed to the lockdowns and soon working from home became the norm, and buying backpacks and shoulder bags was far from people’s minds.

At that moment, Ami relied on a familiar approach to navigate the company through uncertainty.

“I have always believed in the need to keep our eyes ahead and constantly reinvent our products to meet new situations in our customers’ lives,” she said.

When the husband-and-wife team co-founded Lug in 2005, their idea was to create a line of fun, high-performance quilted bags and accessories to keep people organized on the go. They launched the company that year with just three products – luggage tags, luggage straps, and wallets, adding more and more diverse items as their company grew.

Colorful Lug Bags feature multiple pockets and compartments to store a variety of everyday essentials such as phones, laptops, cosmetics, water bottles, wallets, keys and clothes. By the beginning of 2020, their product range had expanded to include more than 150 different items, including sports bags, laptop bags, backpacks and travel bags.

But as travel has declined amid the pandemic, sales of baggage and all travel-related items have vanished. Ami had to find a way to keep Lug bags relevant to a completely changed market. It has done so by adapting bag designs to fit the new lifestyles of consumers in the era of the pandemic.

“We basically looked at the rapidly changing environment and made our products available to it,” Jason said.

For example, Amy has added wipeable pockets made of a vinyl-like material to new designs so customers can easily sterilize bags and find face coverings as well as additional pockets to hold hand sanitizers.

Lug sells a variety of bags, including backpacks, shoulder bags, gym bags, and handbags.

She said the majority of Lug bags now have clear wipeable pockets “where the design makes sense.” They’ve also added pen holder pockets so people have their own pens at the ready.

Lug already has the advantage of getting into the pandemic with its direct-to-consumer sales model. In 2015, the brand joined QVC, a move that expanded its reach to more than 500,000 new customers, Jason said.

In her QVC debut on July 24, 2015, Ami showed off a Lug bag called the “Puddle Jumper,” a bag with several zip pockets inside and out. It sold out in two minutes.

“While brick-and-mortar stores and malls are closed, being at QVC keeps us going,” Jason said. He added that the company’s sales increased during the pandemic, and continue to grow by 15% to 20% year-on-year.

“At some point, road travel came back,” Ami said. “Families were visiting their parents and grandparents and our bags were selling.”

To date, the company says it has sold more than five million products solely through QVC and more than 15 million products overall since its inception. This is a long way from the humble beginnings of the “kitchen table”.

Ami and Jason met in 2004 at a Las Vegas trade show. She had a small booth next to it where she displayed a range of urban laptop bags and other products. He was displaying a line of shirts.

They fell in love and spent the next few months visiting each other in Toronto and Dallas. Their long journey between the two cities inspired the idea of ​​Lug.

Lug founders Ami and Jason Richter.

“We really wanted to add bright, happy colors to the travel space because it felt really black and brown and boring,” said Amy, who defined Lug’s primary clients as women 40 and over who enjoy active, busy lives and appreciate organization.

They booted the company with the $30,000 they had saved and invested the profits back into the business. The Richters said they have not taken any outside funding for Lug’s development since then.

“We’ve exhausted our bank accounts, and we’re going to allocate the maximum amount of credit cards for gas for our car trips,” Ami said. “We were also our own salespeople and knocked on a lot of doors just to pitch Lug.”

The turning point came in 2011, when the Canadian television home shopping channel picked up the brand. The QVC partnership followed two years later.

In October 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, Ami and Jason launched a daily live online shopping show called Lug Live hosted by big fans of the brand. He has six hosts who each showcase a curated collection of Lug products and discuss how they fit into their everyday lives.

Ami’s next idea hints at her vision of Lug becoming a brand that goes beyond bags.

In October, the company will introduce Lug sleepwear and loungewear — on QVC of course. “We are talking about fun. Our customers really love matching our bags with what they are wearing.” “Now they can wear one of our head-to-toe prints.”

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