A company founded by bike couriers wins an Olympic role
IT started out making bags for bike couriers around Melbourne – bags that were big enough for them to carry home a slab of beer. Twenty years later the iconic luggage company, Crumpler, has been sworn to secrecy as it designs the luggage for the Australian Olympic team next year’s Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The athletes will be given a version of Crumpler’s distinctive lightweight Vis-a-Vis check-in luggage – a hard shell design that often has Australians stopped at airports by other travellers wanting to know where to buy them.
The company’s history goes back to the 90s when two school friends – Dave Roper and Will Miller – set up a bicycle courier business in Melbourne. They had trouble with the bags the couriers used. They were discussing their problems when one of their part-time couriers, Stuart Crumpler, offered the solution. The three founded a company in 1995, choosing Crumpler’s name as the most interesting. Roper and Miller took the bags to a trade show in Europe after attending the world bike courier championships in Barcelona in 1997, making their first international sales. They sold the courier business and threw all their energies into making practical bags for active people. They opened their first store in Melbourne’s Fitzroy in 1995.
The company has steadily expanded its range of products including bags for laptops, cameras and surfboards. It now has 18 stores in Australia and another 17 in Asia, including four in China. Two years ago it expanded into check-in luggage when it launched its Vis-a-Vis collection. Made from a polycarbonate/ABS blend, the bags are lightweight and strong with recessed glide wheels, in-built TSA locks and bright red zip safety straps.
Chief executive Peter Stockdale says the company saw the Olympic sponsorship as an opportunity to drive more awareness of the company. “Although Crumpler has been around for 20 years, it has flown under the radar with a loyal core of customers, mainly in the CBDs of Sydney and Melbourne, where the brand has appealed to urban commuters travelling by foot, bike or public transport,” he says. “The Olympic sponsorship will also help Australian customers understand that Crumpler is more than just messenger bags and back packs.” But the actual design of the bags will have to await the launch of the team uniform more than a year away.
Stockdale, who took over as chief executive late last year, has aggressive plans to expand the company. He plans to have 30 stores in Australia within the next two years and a similar number in Asia. After that the next focus will be the US.