Taking on Away & Asia: Q&A with Australian DTC Luggage brand July

Having launched in December 2018, Australian DTC luggage brand July have got their sights firmly set on taking on leading challenger brands such as Away, and leaving their footprint on the APAC market. Here, we talk to the company’s co-founder, Athan Didaskalou (pictured below), to find out how the business is using its Series A funding, and how they plan to make the brand international. 

What’s the customer uptake been like since July launched at the end of 2018? 

We soft-launched in December with pre-orders to try and capture some Christmas sales momentum, but ultimately began formally selling product from February 2019. Since then we’ve seen the demand for July luggage just continue to grow. Launching the larger checked sizes during peak mid-year travel season meant we could better accommodate customer travel needs. The month of July is a special time for us; it was the biggest sales period we’d had since launch, almost wiping us out of stock completely. We had to airfreight in stock just to keep up. One of the most rewarding insights is that a good 30% of customers are returning July owners – highlighting to us they like the brand and the quality of the carry-on and grew the family out. We love this!

What is your core market, and how are you using marketing and communications to engage this group? 

We don’t use age and gender to define our customers, but rather a profile of people who, when they travel, appreciate the momentum of the experience ahead. They connect with products, not because they’re consumerist, but because they put their faith in stories that allows them to focus on other things; “don’t worry about your luggage, we’ve got you covered, you go do your thing”. They value quality, but value value as well, and won’t just pay a premium because a brand told them to.

Our marketing actually begins with the product. By talking about the details of the product, the manufacturing quality, the consideration put into every feature, we’re actually building out the brand promise and what we’re committing to. As a new brand our core goal is to build trust into the decision to take a leap with July, and every communications piece in market builds this piece by piece.

Why did you decide your products through a direct-to-consumer model? What’s the maturity level of DTC in Australia? 

In a category where most luggage is thrown out after three years, the direct-to-consumer model allows us to design and manufacture luggage to last a lifetime. Creating higher-quality, longer-lasting products at a fraction of the traditional price points thanks to this model means we are giving people of all economic situations the opportunity to own luggage that is owned over a lifetime and stops the cycle of single use travel accessories.

Athan Didaskalou, co-founder, July

It also allows us to better differentiate in service offerings from the big incumbents who all rely on fat retailer margins and mass distribution. We know every customer and talk to them directly.

Australia’s still at an early adoption stage for DTC brands. The market responds well to the brand values, but our research suggests that consumers are unaware of the true understanding of the real benefits (higher quality production, lower upfront costs). Over the next few years we’re going to see a lot more Aussie DTC brands launch and continue to build the education story around the benefits.

You guys have brought in over AUD$1m in Series A – what are you going to use these funds for, and how will this money help you meet these goals? 

The $1m investment is about setting up solid foundations in Australia through talent growth and a flagship retail presence, setting us up to grow into Asia via Singapore. Not enough Australian businesses see themselves as geographically part of the Asian commerce region. We are creating a global product from day one, rivalling the quality of the incumbent giants, so growing into the neighbouring region with our brand makes sense.

As you expand into Asia, how do you think you will need to adjust your strategy from the one that you have used in Australia?

With every new market there will always be an adjustment to marketing and operations strategy, but there is also an innate similarity when talking about a globally designed product: luggage is always personal. Maintaining that philosophy to market is what sets us apart, a personal approach to our products, our service, and our brand story.