Carry On by Brookstone

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Launched this year, the new Carry On by Brookstone airport concept store stands to revolutionize the retail experience for the traveling public.

By Eric Slack

The Brookstone name has been synonymous with retail excellence since the company opened its first location in 1973 in Peterborough, N.H. Today, the Merrimack, N.H.-based company continues to strive for retail innovation, including with the recent launch of its Carry On by Brookstone airport store concept.

“For years, Brookstone has had particular success serving both business and leisure travelers in our airport stores,” CEO Tom Via says. “They’ve come to rely on us for travel electronics, travel pillows and blankets, and the ever-important take-home gift. Brookstone airport stores were so successful for us that we simply wanted more of them. As a new store concept, Carry On gives us a great way to offer customers an even more specialized travel assortment that we just couldn’t fit inside our Brookstone stores. Plus it gives us a way to open more stores in airports where we already do business.”

 Ample Selection

First and foremost, Carry On will provide travelers with a diverse array of product options, including travel-friendly clothing featuring top brands. The Carry On mission is to give airport travelers access to the best brands in travel gear and clothing. The concept is designed for travelers who need to find smart clothing and gear in a hurry, and also for people who have time between flights who want to explore and discover items from all the product makers the company features.

“The clothing in Carry On stores is travel-friendly, packable and weather smart, and it is also on trend,” Via says. “As an example, one of our featured apparel lines, ExOfficio, can literally be folded into a tiny ball and remain wrinkle free. Informed customers demand that their travel clothes be both stylish and low maintenance. If you only pick up one item of clothing specifically for traveling, try the ExOfficio Storm Logic jacket. It’s amazingly comfortable in all sorts of weather and folds up into a nice pillow for sleeping on the plane.” 

Helping the company make the concept a reality are its strong ties with brands such as Craghoppers, Victorinox, Scottevest, Brics, Briggs & Riley, Belroy and Ogio. Brookstone is fairly well known in the retail industry for having expertise in the airport store segment, and its internal expertise is very much aware of those brands that make travel products that are both smart and beautiful.

“We’re not just business partners with these brands,” Via says. “We are a retail showcase offering access to millions of travelers. Building Carry On stores around the best brands in travel gear is a win-win for everyone.”

The first Carry On launched this year in Salt Lake City. Brookstone says it was thrilled to have an available storefront become available at the Salt Lake City Airport, and it moved quickly to bring the Carry On concept to the airport when the opportunity presented itself. Thus far, sales have exceeded early plans, and customer reaction has confirmed the company’s faith in the basic concept of giving savvy travelers an exciting, premium-quality assortment in a dedicated travel-themed store.

“The lesson we’ve learned most clearly is that Brookstone can succeed in combining great fashion with innovative features in a premium travel assortment,” Via says.

On the Movecarryonbrookstone box

Looking out at the horizon for longer-term plans for expansion, Brookstone is simultaneously evaluating airport real estate opportunities and refining and expanding its travel assortment. At present, the company has one additional location confirmed for launch in fall 2016, to be announced at a later date. In the meantime, the company is actively seeking additional sites.

Brookstone feels that the key investments needed to support the growth of Carry On will be the right locations and product assortments, as well as robust CRM systems. To fulfill the long-term potential of the Carry On brand, Brookstone says it is investing in premium airport store locations, scouring the world for the most innovative and fashionable travel gear, and customizing its assortments to the weather conditions and regional preferences of people traveling through host airports.

“It’s one thing to sell jackets to people coming into Salt Lake City, but it’s also important to know how many people fly out of Salt Lake City on their way to bathing-suit climates,” Via says.

Brookstone’s traditional operations will provide support to Carry On, which will benefit from both the Brookstone distribution infrastructure as well as its network of close relationships with key brands and manufacturers. Another advantage Brookstone gives to Carry On is early access to innovative items coming through its Brookstone Launch program.

“BrookstoneLaunch.com is our new platform for seeking out, identifying and sourcing exciting new products from maker communities such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter,” Via says. “There’s an item we’re not quite ready to talk about that is going to be big among business travelers, and it will likely be a perfect fit for our Carry On stores.”

Just as the Carry On brand will take advantage of Brookstone’s expertise and infrastructure, it should play an important role in Brookstone’s overall strategic growth plans. Carry On will add to revenue growth for Brookstone and expand the reach of its brand among business travelers, travel enthusiasts and other high-income airport shoppers.

As the concept evolves, Carry On will be entertainment-centered but with a much greater emphasis on fashion trends. The company believes that launching the Carry On brand will help it to discover and build an exclusive assortment of items that are ahead of trends technologically and perfectly on trend in terms of fashion. Challenges lie ahead, but Brookstone is understandably excited about the potential of the Carry On brand.

“The short-term challenge lies in managing the product needs of a single-store operation,” Via says. “We need to learn and scale this concept quickly to gain the benefits of a multi-unit chain. Our priorities include identifying exciting new products that our travel customer is surprised and delighted by. We plan to expand Carry On as an exciting new travel concept store in many airports.”

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