Reading this Atlantic article on the Retail Meltdown of 2017 reminded me of the importance of riding tailwinds in a business.
The winners take advantage of societal and market trends. The losers resist the change that is obvious to everyone but them. This is the Innovator's Dilemma.
At Tortuga, we've tried to ride the tailwinds that we see in the travel and retail industries. We've also lucked into a few that were not in the original plan.
As Bonobos' Andy Dunn first described, the future of retail is v-commerce: digitally-native, vertically-integrated brands.
The future of retail is web-first, not brick-and-mortar-first.
The future of retail is making and selling a product directly to consumers, not being a "mall brand" sold everywhere with no direct line to your customers.
Tortuga started as a v-commerce brand before it was a term and before most of the biggest names in the space even existed. We were following the 4-Hour Workweek playbook. When we couldn't find the right backpack to white label, we had to design and manufacture our own. We did things the hard way but ended up as a vertical brand.
Experiences Over Stuff
As the article highlights, consumers are spending less on tangible goods, like clothing, and more on experiences like travel, restaurants, and bars. Millenials are often cited as favoring experiences over stuff.
Jeremy and I followed our interest in travel in launching Tortuga. Our first bag was made to fill our own need for a backpack for city travel.
Here again, we got lucky in choosing a product and category. While our luggage fits into the "stuff" category, it also enables experiences. We design products for cultural explorers and digital nomads. Our bags are part of peak, once-in-a-lifetime experiences for our customers. We have a huge opportunity to be an integral part of a highlight of their year or even life. I would much rather run a travel company than a restaurant, the other common category of experiential purchases.
Remote Work and Digital Nomadism
When we started Tortuga, Jeremy was living in Los Angeles, and I was in San Francisco. We worked remotely out of necessity. As the company grew, we stuck with it. By then, companies like Basecamp and Buffer were talking about remote work, and we began to discover a community of like-minded people and companies.
During our early years, we also learned about digital nomads, a community similar to the "new rich" that Tim Ferriss talks about in The 4-Hour Workweek. Since then, nomadism has exploded, and the community has become more connected. If you're unfamiliar, check out Nomad List. Nomads are a growing market of travelers and early adopters. This market has become so important that Homebase, our second collection, will be tailored to digital nomads.
The lesson is to coast on tailwinds, not fight headwinds out of stubbornness or resistance to change. When the market or industry moves, skate where the puck is going.