But when travel bans came into force, households succumbed to lockdowns and working from home quickly became the norm, shopping for backpacks and shoulder bags was the furthest thing from mind people.
It was then that Ami relied on a familiar approach to navigating the business through uncertainty.
“I’ve always believed in keeping our eyes on the future and continually reinventing 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 highly functional yet playful 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 varied items as their business grew.
Lug’s colorful bags feature multiple pockets and compartments to store a variety of everyday essentials like phones, laptops, cosmetics, water bottles, wallets, keys and clothing. By early 2020, their product portfolio had grown to over 150 different items, including sports bags, laptop bags, backpacks, and suitcases.
“We basically looked at the rapidly changing environment and adapted our products to it,” Jason said.
For example, Ami has added washable pockets made of vinyl-like material to new models so customers can easily sanitize bags and find face coverings as well as additional pockets to hold hand sanitizers.
She said the majority of Lug bags now have clear wipeable pockets “where it makes sense in design.” They also added pen holder pockets so people have their own pens close at hand.
Lug already had an advantage at the start of the pandemic with its primarily direct-to-consumer sales model. In 2015, the brand joined QVC, a move that expanded its market reach to more than 500,000 new customers, Jason said.
In their very first QVC appearance on July 24, 2015, Ami showcased a Lug bag called “Puddle Jumper”, a backpack with multiple inside and outside zippered pockets. It sold out in two minutes.
“While physical stores and malls have closed, being on QVC has kept us going,” Jason said. The company’s sales have increased during the pandemic and continue to grow 15-20% year-over-year, he added.
“At some point road travel came back,” Ami said. “Families were visiting their parents, their grandparents and our bags were selling.”
Create a Lug Lifestyle
To date, the company claims to have sold over five million products through QVC alone and over 15 million products in total since its inception. It’s a far cry from its humble “kitchen table” beginnings.
Ami and Jason met in 2004 at a trade show in Las Vegas. She had a small booth next to hers where she displayed a collection of urban laptop bags and other products. He presented a line of t-shirts.
They fell in love and spent the next few months visiting Toronto and Dallas. Their long journey between the two cities inspired Lug’s idea.
“We really wanted to bring bright, happy colors to the travel space because it was really black and brown and boring,” said Ami, who identified Lug’s primary customers as women 40 and older. , with active, busy lives that appreciate being organized.
They started the business with $30,000 they had saved up and reinvested the profits back into the business. The Richters said they had not taken any outside funding to develop Lug since then.
“We emptied our bank accounts and maxed out gas credit cards for our car trips,” Ami said. “We were also our own sales people and knocked on many doors just to introduce Lug.”
The turning point came in 2011, when the brand was taken over by a Canadian home shopping television channel. The QVC partnership followed two years later.
In October 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, Ami and Jason launched a daily online shopping show called Lug Live hosted by superfans of the brand. It has six hosts who each showcase a curated collection of Lug products and discuss how they fit into their daily lives.
Ami’s next idea alludes to his vision of Lug becoming a lifestyle brand beyond bags.
In October, the company will launch Lug sleepwear and loungewear — on QVC, of course. “We want to have fun. Our customers already like to match our bags to what they’re wearing,” she said. “Now they can dress head to toe in one of our prints.”