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Last Update: Tuesday July 27, 2021

Key Idea: Stick with Core Products

Bill Keller said the travel pack, which looks like a large backpack, has been critical to the success of Le Travel Store since they started selling it in 1977.

Key Question:


Stay with the products that your customers trust you to offer.

Imagine not being able to get a pizza at the Pizza Hut. They have many other dishes on their menu today but the core product is pizza. At Hot Dog On A Stick the lemonade generates as much or more profit than does the sale of hot dogs but it has never occurred to the leadership to only sell beverages.

Why is a backpack their key product and how has it changed since 1977?

They have cultivated the image of self-sufficiency. The backpack fits perfectly with everything they are hoping to get their customers to do. The simplicity of a backpack is in harmony with the philosophy of their core customers. Also, the Eagle Creek brand, which is manufactured in San Diego, continues to depend upon Joan and Bill to test new products. Le Travel Store sells the same backpack they started with; additionally, they offer a version that has the option of being rolled rather than carried on the back. This was tough for Bill to adopt himself, but now he laughs and admits that he is getting older and rolling the bag is easier on his aging body.

Think about it

What is your core product? How have you modified it over the years. What changes could be made to your core product that will make it more relevant to today's customer?

Clip from: Le Travel Store in the Gaslamp Quarter

San Diego:  Joan and Bill Keller, founders of Le Travel Store,  have traveled so much,  you ask, "Where haven't you been?"  One answer was "The Antarctica." But, they got close -- Ushuaia, capital of Tierra del Fuego - Patagonia down on the tip of Argentina, the most southern city on earth and on a clear day ... of course, Joan and Bill Keller have the Antarctica on their list, but compared to most people, their list is rather short.

Become an independent traveler, but do it with panache. Take some of your customers, your investors, CPA and banker, and of course, your family with you. Source the world. 

Also, this team is well-grounded in their community. They lead the "return to authenticity" movement that champions Main Street. The National Trust for Historic Preservation led us to them and this historic Gaslamp Quarter!

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Le Travel Store (BK)

Bill Keller, Founder

745 Fourth Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101

Visit our web site:

Office: 6195440005

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1975

Stick with Core Products

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Southern California-based Eagle Creek is Le Travel Store's primary vendor.

You can find every product manufactured by them in Le Travel Store, and Joan and Bill work closely with them on product development.

BILL: The product that really made our business is the travel pack, and this is the current generation of that item. In fact, this company, Eagle Creek, is our best supplier, and when we were about four months in business, the founder of this business brought in his original version of this and showed it to us, and for the last 20 years we've been selling it ever since. And it accounts for a very high percentage of our sales in this business.

HATTIE: Did he bring in a hand-made new product for you to look at?

BILL: Yes. Yes, it was an early version of this very product that...

HATTIE: And that was 20-something years ago.

BILL: Twenty some-odd years ago, that's right. And what it is, it's a soft luggage. You can carry it from a handle on the top, or a handle on the side. But then when you open it up here, pull out the back straps, the waist belt--see all this stuff tucks away so that when you're traveling, flying on an airplane, traveling by train...

HATTIE: If you check it, the straps don't get caught and...

BILL: Right, right. So this converts in to a backpack. When you have this tightened, the weight's actually on your hips...

HATTIE: Yes, it is.

BILL: know, instead of down here. In fact, you have very little weight on your shoulders.

BILL: We hear a lot from customers about features that they'd like to see on products and make suggestions to Eagle Creek. And, you know, Eagle Creek started with the baby boom generation who was traveling with the travel pack, and what we started seeing about five years ago was an increase in the upright wheeled luggage, starting with the company TravelPro and basically every other luggage manufacturer developed that sort of product.

And what I suggested to Eagle Creek was that if they wanted to keep up with their baby boom generation customer, they'd better recognize that the customer's going from the backpack to the backache stage of their life and better catch up. And we saw the prototype before it was developed, but they came up with this product, which is, in fact, a backpack. You can unzip the back panel. That folds down. You have back straps, but that is really not the main feature. It is wheeled luggage with in-line skate wheels and a nifty handle system that pulls up, and this is what I took on my trip to Europe last year. In fact, as I was planning to go, I went through the thought process I'm sure a lot of guys my age are gonna go through, which is...

HATTIE: "Oops. I'm getting old!'

BILL: `I'm not a wuss. I don't want to give up my backpack, you know, I don't need wheeled luggage,' but then I thought, `Oh, what the heck, I'll go ahead and take it,' and, boy, was I pleased with it.

JOAN: He liked it.

BILL: It was so easy getting around.

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