47-year-old luggage brand Eagle Creek lands in Steamboat
Eagle Creek has been a legendary adventure travel luggage brand since its founding in 1975. After Denver’s VF Corp. announced plans to shutter the brand last year, Travis Campbell—who previously served as general manager Americas for The North Face and president of Smartwool here in Steamboat—purchased it and moved its headquarters to Steamboat. Swillin’ caught up with Campbell in between fly casts on the Yampa and bike rides on Emerald to catch up on his plans for the brand.
Swillin’: Tell us about your motives for the purchase
Campbell: It was an amazing opportunity. The brand means so much to so many, is known for its incredibly high-quality products, and we have an opportunity to build a company from scratch around that love. We can put some of the toothpaste back in the tube and move forward in a way that’s authentic to the brand and our customers. We want to invest in growth for the right reasons: to create opportunities for our people, scale our impact, and create funds for sustainability work and conservation efforts. You can be a great business by traditional financial metrics and also do good in the world.
Swillin’: Any big changes to the brand’s direction?
Campbell: Everyone involved recognized time was of the essence and how important it was to let the market know the brand would be going forward with new ownership and renewed energy. I think eventually we’ll put our own stamp on it, likely in terms of new categories or activities we want to serve. In the short term, I just want to understand where the brand has been and where it is before we make major changes. The great thing is we’re starting from a position of a having an iconic brand that has made really good product over time. As travel starts to recover, I think our core product portfolio and customers will serve us well and give us lots of room to grow, so there isn’t intense pressure to move quickly in new directions.
Swillin’: Any big changes staffing-wise?
Campbell: The brand was located in Denver ever since VF moved its outdoor businesses there in 2019. We’ve now moved our headquarters to a building off Elk River Road. We’re building our team essentially from scratch, while defining what the future organization will look like and which roles can come over time.
Swillin’: Do you have the new line ready to sell yet?
Campbell: Because of COVID, the brand had actually built newness into the line that they held off on introducing in the last couple seasons, and it’s developed newness for SP22 and F22 as well, so we have a lot of new product in the pipeline right now. For this year our focus is going to be on being in stock on our core, best-selling items.
Swillin’: Does the recent slowdown in travel due to the pandemic give you any concerns? For sure. Not so much in the long term because I’m convinced that global adventure travel will come back stronger than ever, but in the short term it is definitely having an impact on bigger trips. That said, many people adjusted to more close-to-home outdoor recreation last year and that trend continues to explode in a positive way for parts of our business.
Swillin’: Any advantages on being an independent, smaller company now?
Campbell: I think an independent Eagle Creek can do things large corporations simply can’t because the demands of our capital structure are so different. We want to be an incubator for ideas seen and heard over the years, create new ways to help travelers and the world. I truly believe travel can change lives on so many levels, because travel is so much more than going to a place, it’s the journey, the people you meet, and what’s learned along the way.