Retail powerhouse Target has become increasingly adept at launching in-house product lines, from houseware basics to mid-century furnishings, and turning them into billion-dollar brands. The latest product category it’s set to disrupt: suitcases and travel gear. The company recently launched Open Story, a line of high-quality luggage with prices ranging from $19.99 to $179.99.
The line contains hardshell roller carry-ons ($150) and checked suitcases ($180), along with backpacks (starting at $50), weekender-style duffels ($80), packing cubes ($30 for a set of four), and even hard-sided cosmetic and jewelry cases ($30). The collection has a sleek, minimal aesthetic, and comes in a muted color scheme of black, sky blue, blush, peach, and mint green. The suitcases, which are designed with a distinctive ridge pattern, come with built-in USB ports for charging your phone.
If this all sounds familiar, it’s because it bears some resemblance to suitcases from direct-to-consumer startup Away. Over the past five years, there’s been a transformation in the luggage sector, with the arrival of a flock of new brands including Away, ROAM, and Arlo Skye that have promised better-quality luggage at reasonable prices. Until that point, many luggage brands treated suitcases as a commodity and competed largely on price. Others, such as Rimowa, kept quality high, but (until recently) remained largely out of touch with younger travelers. In this environment, direct-to-consumer startups have resonated, particularly among younger consumers, who are attracted to their chic aesthetics and savvy lifestyle branding.
In some ways, Target is taking a page from this playbook with its new collection. “We also recognized a white space within the growing luggage industry when it comes to stylish, highly functional products for an affordable price,” says Julie Guggemos, Target SVP and chief design officer. Like Away and others, Open Story’s imagery features young people in casual outfits on the go. And the pieces appear deliberately priced to be between 20% and 30% less expensive than similar items from Away.
The new line is an interesting move for Target, which already carries other luggage brands in store, including Heys and American Tourister. Guggemos says that having such a clear view into the luggage market allowed Target to better understand consumers’ needs when it comes to travel. “Our research revealed that guests are traveling more often and prioritizing the value of experiences more than ever before,” she says. “(We) saw this as an opportunity for Target to build relationships with new and existing guests—and gain market share in the process—through the introduction of a new, only-at-Target luggage brand.”
Target’s 40-piece collection aims to address all of a traveler’s needs, including more peripheral items, such as garment bags and totes. Based on the Target design team’s research, style and durability were the top two concerns among consumers when it came to deciding what luggage to purchase. As a result, Target invested heavily in features that would make the bags sturdy and durable. This includes YKK zippers and Hinomoto Spinner Wheels, both of which are known for their dependability and durability. According to Guggemos, the company also put the luggage through many tests to ensure their functionality. This included seam tests to make sure that fabrics and linings wouldn’t tear under extreme circumstances, water repellency trials, and eight different zipper durability tests. They even put bags through typical travel mishaps, such as falling down a flight of stairs or being thrown around during the baggage handling process. The entire Open Story line also comes with a year-long “Happiness Guarantee,” which allows buyers to return the pieces for any reason within 12 months, and a 10-year limited warranty that covers defects due to workmanship. “(This) sets us apart from our competitors in the luggage space,” says Guggemos.
Target’s vast retail network give the new line an an advantage over competitors, which have a smaller retail footprint. Most of the direct-to-consumer luggage brands sell their products online, which means their customers are often taking a risk by placing an order, since they haven’t seen or tested the product in person. With Open Story, it is “easy for guests to try out the products during their weekly Target run,” says Guggemos. It also means that customers don’t have to wait for the items to be shipped, making it convenient for last-minute purchases. (Like when your suitcase loses a wheel on a trip, and you need to get a new one fast.)
With Target’s new line, the luggage market gets even more crowded. These days, consumers aren’t just comparing brands based on their price and quality: they’re picking the one that best represents their aesthetic sensibilities as well as who they stand for as travelers. And for Target customers, the best option could now be right across from the frozen food aisle.
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