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Korey was in the throes of penning her graduate business school dissertation on the hallmarks of success for direct-to-consumer businesses. Plus, she and Rubio started on the same day together at Warby Parker back in 2011, when the direct-to-consumer eyeglasses company had just 20 employees. "We helped Warby grow from 20 to 300 people while we were there," says Korey, Away's CEO. "We feel so strongly that the future of retail is direct to consumer." Not only are direct to consumer brands cheaper--since they cut out the middleman (a.k.a., the retailer)--they offer a constant feedback loop that traditional consumer products companies don't have, says Korey. "If a customer goes into a [traditional] luggage store and says 'That purple is whack,' you're never going to know about it," she adds. "With direct-to-consumer, the brand constantly learns how to better serve the customer." Since officially launching Away in 2015, the pair have found plenty of opportunities to test that theory. The New York-based company, which offers four sizes of bags starting at $225, has sold more than 50,000 suitcases--helping it book $12 million in sales in 2016, its first full fiscal year. Away is on track to more than quadruple that figure to $48 million in 2017, says Korey. Of course, the founders have a ways to go before Away becomes a household name.
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Burberry also declined to comment, though in November the company said it was simplifying its offerings and tailoring innovation for “local needs.” Rolling out the right number of styles is no easy task. Brands need to strike a careful balance between creating a glut of inventory -- so-called “dead stock” -- while ensuring there’s enough trendy, new merchandise to entice consumers, said Katie Smith, a senior fashion analyst at Edited. “Dropping newness too low could certainly threaten sales,” she said. Kate Spade & Co. and Ralph Lauren, did introduce more new designs in the fourth quarter, Edited found. But many tried to ride out the holidays without breaking fresh ground. Fashion is an unpredictable industry, but handbag makers have relied on innovative features and flourishes -- mini bags, for instance -- to get the attention of shoppers. With fewer designs hitting store shelves, there’s less opportunity to hit on a hot trend.
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