The sailing season is in full swing and the accessory brand Sea Bags limits the benefits.
In fact, the Portland, Maine-based brand, which makes handmade, sustainable bags and other home accessories like outdoor cushions and floor mats from recycled sails, has grown despite the ongoing inflationary pressures that have prompted many consumers to reconsider their spending habits during the pandemic .
In the last 12 months, Sea Bags revenue has grown by more than 60 percent – 97 percent in the last three years. The company has also increased its store presence by about 50 percent since 2020, and now has 45 brick-and-mortar locations in its fleet, up from 20 in 2019, and in new markets including Michigan, Florida and California; increased its pre-pandemic workforce from 150 to more than 200 and doubled the size of its Maine manufacturing footprint from 15,000 square feet to 30,000 square feet. Sea Bags has also worked with Vera Bradley, Life Is Good, Mount Gay Rum and Vineyard Vines, among others. In addition, Sea Bags launched a new website at the end of 2020 for a more user-friendly experience with increased speed and additional traffic capacity.
“This is a very exciting time for Sea Bags,” said Don Oakes, Sea Bags Chief Executive Officer.
It’s also a significant extension for an accessible luxury brand that sells handbags priced in excess of $200 apiece, discretionary items that are usually the first thing consumers pass on in uncertain times.
But Oakes said the combination of increased brand awareness from its growing store fleet and durable products helped the company weather the storm.
“Our store locations and unique products have allowed us to thrive during these challenging times,” the CEO told WWD, explaining that pandemic-related real estate deals have allowed the company to open more stores than originally planned and many times in markets that need it previously gave priceless. “Over the years we’ve learned that the best way to understand our brand and experience our product is in person, and that’s why stores have become our biggest channel. We anticipate that the current economic environment will present opportunities for future growth and retail expansion, as was the case in 2020.”
“Our core sustainability message also seems to be resonating with more and more people as awareness of the importance of recycling and reuse continues to grow and the public once again values buying American-made goods like ours,” Oakes added.
Because the company is based in Maine and all of its products are made in the United States, Oakes said the company has not had to deal with ongoing supply chain challenges.
“Sea Bags was founded with a mission to create and sustain jobs in the United States and save sails from landfills,” he explained. “For most years, our growth has been limited only by our ability to increase production. After the incredible growth we’ve seen [in 2021], we plan to double our production in the next few years. We always say our supply chain is Maine first, then New England, then the US, and it stops there.”
Sea Bags was founded by Hannah Kubiak, who lived in Maine on her father’s sailboat in 1999. As a hobby, Kubiak began making bags from recycled canvas. Because Kubiak sewed the bags by hand, she could only produce about 40 a year.
But her bags managed to catch the attention of Beth Shissler, who began buying them in bulk and reselling them in her mother’s gift shop. In 2006 the duo decided on a partnership and the Sea Bags company was born.
“We’re in places that people like to visit and vacation,” Oakes said. “So it’s a great time to get to know our brand and discover our products. Each of our products is unique and no two are alike.”