Cases and bags manufacturer Knomo is embarking on an ambitious new distribution strategy. The company, which was founded in London in 2004 and has traditionally sold through luggage retailers, has set its sights on four additional channels: consumer electronics, telecommunications, airports and fashion.
Knomo products can currently be found in Electronic Expo, Electronic Express, Huppin’s/OneCall and Fry’s Electronics, as well as AT&T stores, Hudson News and InMotion. It’s also seeking additional partners.
In conjunction with this retail expansion, the company is broadening its product line to include mobile charging accessories. Rather than trying to compete with the sea of low-priced chargers flooding the market, however, Knomo said it is instead positioning the devices as complementary to the featured cases and bags.
TWICE recently caught up Deena Ghazarian, Knomo’s global VP of sales, via email to learn the motivation behind the moves and how the company intends to support its new retail partners. Ghazarian joined Knomo earlier this year, bringing past experience from her time as global sales and finance senior VP at Monster and director of Canadian expansion at AVAD.
TWICE: What led you to enter the U.S. market?
Knomo London was founded 12 years ago to create bags that people love and will keep them organized, as well as making the most of new technologies. Knomo has actually been in the U.S. market for the last five years, primarily focused on the luggage and e-commerce channels. With Knomo’s lifestyle expansion in Europe, we are now ready to expand with the right partners to further develop the Lifestyle brand here in the U.S. We have put together a team of some of the best and experienced talent in the United States, who not only understand the importance of carefully considered channel distribution, but more importantly the sell-through execution of a plan with each partner so everyone wins.
TWICE: What kind of marketing plans do you have for the brand?
We are looking to have a blend of lifestyle- and technology-based marketing, anchored by a strong social-media connection to our customer, partnerships with influencers and well-known travelers who are looking for a fashionable bag and complementary accessories to organize their life and keep them productive.
We are also going to create an end-user community of hyper fans called Knomads who are constantly on the move and can relate and believe in an authentic brand like Knomo.
TWICE:What motivated you to expand beyond bags into charging accessories?
The Knomo team prides itself on creating bags with innovative, thoughtful designs that solves everyday issues faced by mobile professionals and travelers. When getting to learn what the consumer needed, it became a natural move to develop some charging accessories.
What differentiates Knomo is that we think about how accessories are being carried and the how they can fit in organically into our products. Most accessories are bulky and, though functional, don’t think about style or thoughtful placement of how that product is carried from place to place. Our ecosystem of accessories aligns with the look for our main products. The few accessories we do make are slim, are made to intuitively glide into the right pockets on the bag, and make it easy to reach for when needed.
TWICE: How will you stand out among the competition, especially the plethora of low-end chargers?
Our charging products are a nice complement to our bags and not a product we are leading with, so the focus is on attaching those products to the bag experience and not selling them separately. If, however, the customer absolutely falls in love with the look and intuitive features we have developed for the accessory products, we are happy to have them buy our products.
TWICE: What kind of retail support can you provide to dealers?
Our retail partner focus is the key to success for Knomo in the U.S. We have hired a channel marketing manager for retail, a channel marketing manager for online, and a seasoned training manager to support the execution of Knomo product in stores. We customize a program for each customer that is right for them.
[For example], we help them to select the right product for their customers around the right price points of their demographics. We provide a merchandising experience that is stylish but educational in its appearance. We provide how-to training so the associates presenting the products to customers ask them how they are working remotely today, and then provide them the right solutions based on their needs. We [also] provide marketing support to drive each retailer building the brand for their customer base.
Our real job starts once we agree to a partnership with the retailer. It is just as much our job to make them successful with the brand as we need their help to execute in stores and online.
TWICE: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the CE accessories industry at this time?
In our category of focus, bags today are just a commodity product that needs to be looked at differently. With the digital nomad becoming more prevalent, their needs will need to be met, and our retailer partners can help them with those needs.
If we do this together correctly, we will create a new incremental category for the business that everyone can smile about. I have been fortunate in my CE lifetime to do that a few times, so I am hoping this in another great opportunity to do it again for our industry.
TWICE: Can you share what’s coming down the pipeline for Knomo?
Though I can’t share a lot, I will share that adding “smarts” to the bags is critical to our road map. The smarter we make the bags for our Knomads, the happier they are going to be on their travels of life. For example, one of our first projects that is launching this January will be our “drop and go” bags. This technology will allow you to charge your phone easily in a special pocket of each of our bags.