How Emerging Travel Trends Are Informing July’s Expansion Strategy


Founded in 2019 by Athan Didaskalou and Richard Li, Australian luggage brand July has doubled down in its mission to cater to the modern traveller, as lifestyles and consumer priorities evolve.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, consumers around the world have re-embraced travel, despite rising cost-of-living pressures. In 2024, global travel flows are projected to reach up to 110 percent of 2019 levels, according to BoF’s State of Fashion 2024 report. “Workation” trips that straddle business and pleasure, hybrid working schedules and global cultural events — such as the upcoming 2024 Olympic Games in Paris — are all contributing to this shift.

Indeed, as the exclusive supplier of the Australian Olympic Team’s bespoke luggage for the upcoming Games, July is strategically acknowledging the cultural moments underpinning global travel. Additionally, the travel brand has strong footholds across the high-growth APAC region, with a physical presence in Singapore, Malaysia, China and Hong Kong as well as Australia. It also counts UK retailer Selfridges among its international outposts.

At July, catering to travel trends and regional hotspots is underscored by a design strategy centred around problem-solving. Upon its inception, July read more than 4,000 reviews of existing suitcases in order to solve customers’ biggest pain points — from quieter wheels and better reinforcement of corners to improved warranty policies. Smaller runs allow it to test, iterate and evolve its offering, creating live feedback loops with consumers. Now, BoF sits down with co-founder and director Athan Didaskalou to understand how July has evolved its business model in line with post-pandemic travel flows, the insights they have gleaned on the APAC region and consumer, its plans to partner with the fashion industry — and what the sector could learn from July’s iterative design process.

July co-founder and director Athan Didaskalou stands before five suitcases.
July co-founder and director Athan Didaskalou. (July)

How has the surge in travel post-pandemic impacted your brand’s growth and strategy?

When we launched just before the Covid-19 pandemic, it felt like any other year. But when global travel came to a halt, we saw a real yearning for travel from consumers. Since then, we have seen a real case of people making up for lost time.

Even as we have seen recessionary downturns, economic uncertainties and interest rates rise, travel has become an essential category for many. We have noticed that consumers are more likely to sacrifice the smaller things — restaurants, bars, date nights, day-to-day discretionary spending — in order to prioritise travelling and have that experience that they were denied for a long time. At July, we have seen business quadruple in size since the return to pre-Covid travel flows.

How have travellers’ needs and preferences evolved in recent years?

One big shift has been the blurring of the lines of business and pleasure within travel — extending work trips to maximise and add value to those experiences. That shift in behaviour means that consumers expect more from their travel products and accessories.

For instance, if they are travelling with carry-ons, do they require an extra overnight bag that can be stacked on top? Or perhaps they want their everyday work bag to be adaptable and travel-friendly for short-term trips. That adaptability is an important feature — readiness for travel is a natural part of the brief when it comes to this category.

What impact has this evolution had on local travel trends?

Speaking to Australia specifically, where July is based, we have been tracking the rise of experiential — almost thematic — hotels that provide the customer with a real sense of escapism. This trend is partly driven by the country’s geographical positioning. Unlike Europeans, for whom international travel is an easy weekend activity, it takes Australians several hours to even leave the country.

Everybody on the July team has to work within a flow of customer feedback, reaching out to customers to understand their needs.

There are retro-inspired ranch properties opening an hour outside of Byron Bay — a real departure from the themes and experiences you would typically enjoy there. Another example are destinations like Il Delfino in Yamba, Australia, which is designed and curated so guests feel like they are on the Amalfi Coast. These small pockets of escapism are becoming hot travel destinations for travellers in the country who want more variety and more opportunities despite not having that ease of international travel. There are definitely some unique things happening locally to tap into that appetite for travel.

How is customer feedback incorporated into July’s product development process?

Our desire for customer feedback comes from a healthy sense of scepticism — and a bit of self-critique too. Everybody on the July team has to work within a flow of customer feedback, reaching out to customers to understand their needs. We gain great insight and it’s a fantastic source of free research. Sometimes we get conflicting feedback, but it has helped us significantly to demonstrate new products, gain customer insight, make amendments, gather more feedback and so on.

Six suitcases stand before a cream backdrop. From left to right their colours are yellow, cream, khaki, burnt orange, sky blue and grey. They are all the same size.
July has strong footholds across the high-growth APAC region, with a physical presence in Singapore, Malaysia, China and Hong Kong as well as Australia. It also counts UK retailer Selfridges among its international outposts. (July)

One example is our Juliette range, which is essentially a handbag with travel features. We had amazing feedback come through on everything from the width of the strap and how the bag sits crossbody, to the length of the top handles to allow the bag to sit on the wearer’s shoulders even when they are wearing coats or winter clothes. We learnt that not everything has to be zipped to allow for one-handed use.

Another interesting piece of feedback was around lunch containers — according to our customers, many fashion bags don’t have a flat base wide enough for a standard lunch container. It was an insightful process to go through — the final product sold out within five days.

How important is physical retail and the in-store experience to the luggage category?

Speaking more broadly, I think the tide is moving away from being all about e-commerce. The world has never been so accessible — it’s never been easier to immediately do e-commerce, to work cross-channel, to have a social presence. In a world where everything is easily accessible, physical spaces cannot only provide a level of exclusivity, but also something that consumers will respect and cherish.

At July, we have seen business quadruple in size since the return to pre-Covid travel flows.

For us personally, stores are an amazing brand opportunity. They are powerful customer touchpoints and act as amazing feedback channels, which allow us to grow and develop the products and the business. We also pay close attention to what goes on in those spaces — every night, our sales team members do a written review of the day and each night, we read all of them. One recent example of insight from our associates revealed that customers in-store wanted to buy our luggage in sky blue, but they were worried about the suitcase scuffing in transit. Our solution was to colour-match a suitcase cover so that shoppers could buy the colour they wanted and not worry about damage.

Lastly, putting the love for physical retail to one side, this is a category where sometimes the need is instant. Some customers simply need to see it, buy it and travel tomorrow. It means this category demands that level of service and convenience that physical retail provides.

What role do partnerships with fashion brands play in your business strategy over the medium term?

Today, I think travel as a category has fast become a fashion target. For instance, you see global fashion brands and retailers doubling down on vacationwear as an opportunity.

A blue suitcase with the logo "July" is wheeled by a person in blue baggy jeans, white trainers and a black long-sleeved top. Their upper body is outside of the picture frame, such that the sky blue suitcase is the focus.
July has doubled down in its mission to cater to the modern traveller, as lifestyles and consumer priorities evolve. (July)

July doesn’t have a creative director — and we’ll never be the kind of business to churn out 10,000 seasonal SKUs — but partnering with fashion to be able to better align with expectations around colours, accessories and capitalise on capsule travel trends is interesting. Over the next 12 months, some of the partnerships that we are working on and the products that we are trying to release play into a more premium product space — we are doubling down in higher quality materials, for instance, because the demand is there.

Our next partnership is with established Australian fashion house Oroton, which has been around for almost 100 years. These sorts of partnerships allow for a symbiotic relationship — it brings us closer to the fashion world, while we can offer them the technical expertise to move into the travel category.

What is next for July?

We hope to double down on our physical outposts and build our international reach. Being Australian in origin, we look at both Aesop and Zimmermann as our guideposts — two Australian export brands with strong identities. Both are billion-dollar businesses — a benchmark that they achieved within 30 to 40 years, respectively.

One of the reasons July exists is because we believe those big players have been resting on their laurels a bit. The luggage market really is Samsonite, LVMH and everybody else, from a market share perspective — July is definitely going to continue to follow the many competitors out there.

This is a sponsored feature paid for by July as part of a BoF partnership.



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