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Why Away Doesn’t Sell Luggage on Amazon

Away, the purveyor of colorful rolling suitcases whose valuation surpassed $1 billion this spring, credits its success to a key decision: Not selling its luggage on Amazon.

"What I am glad we never did and that we’ve avoided so far is being on Amazon," said Jen Rubio, co-founder and chief brand officer of Away, at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference Tuesday in Aspen, Colo.

Away, which is based in New York, sells its products on its own website throughout the U.S., Europe, and several other countries, as well as in brick-and-mortar stores in seven major cities. It has marketed the suitcases aggressively through Facebook and Instagram.

But the travel company has eschewed Amazon, a strategic choice that Rubio believes has helped Away solidify its brand. Doing so has created a "moat," she said, that has set it apart from competitors.

"I really do think that you will have brands that you go to because you love the brand or the product, and that’s a differentiator, and everything else is a commodity that you’ll buy on Amazon," Rubio said. "And I really don’t think there will be a middle space. So I think really just sticking to our guns, and not going on the [Amazon] platform was important for us."

A deal breaker, Rubio added, is the fact that Amazon doesn't share data about its customers with vendors, meaning Away would be cut off from insights into who buys its products. Customer data is vital to a direct-to-consumer brand like Away, which plans to rely on that connection to consumers and analytics as it expands into other products and markets, she said.

"What’s important is that customer relationship for us, and that’s how we’ve been able to build our brand," Rubio said.

Being able to collect customer metrics and analyze them will also help Away make its marketing more targeted, she added. "I know in my heart, and my gut tells me that this will make it easier to advertise on Facebook."

Rubio did, however, leave the door open to potentially partnering with Amazon in the future, under more favorable terms. "Never say never, but we’re committed to not going on Amazon with what they’ve offered us now," she said. "Obviously it’s a massive platform with a lot of customers, but we’re not going to go on there as a wholesale brand."

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