Traffic and sales are halved at Peak Design, which sells high-end travel and camera accessories, during the coronavirus pandemic. Plus, sales for the merchant on Amazon have ‘ground to a halt.’ The retailer launched a sale to help buoy sales during these uncertain times.

The first quarter of 2020 was looking bright in terms of direct-to-consumer sales for high-end travel and camera gear retailer, says director of marketing Adam Saraceno. But then the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S.

A strong Q1 is typical for the retailer, as it gains many first-time consumers around the holiday season, and those shoppers are repurchasing or looking to buy coordinating components. But beginning the second week of March, traffic and sales took a pronounced downturn. And by the end of March, sales and traffic to its ecommerce site were cut in half, Saraceno says.

Peak Design revamps its marketing strategy

While the retailer typically generates about $300,000 in revenue per week on average during this time period, that dropped to $150,000. At that point, Peak Design knew it had to do something, Saraceno says. The retailer decided to launch a sale, which is not something it usually does outside of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales around Thanksgiving weekend.

The strategy worked. On the first day of the promotion, March 31, Peak Design exceeded sales from its Black Friday 2019 sale. The sale—which offered 20-40% off discounts across its site—was a success because the retailer does not usually discount is products, Saraceno says. For the entire week of the sale, revenue remained higher than typical for this time of year, he says.


Once the sale ends later this week, however, the retailer is not sure what to expect. The retailer is hopeful shoppers may want to buy complementary products with their new purchase, which is what typically happens after the holiday season. Plus, once stay-at-home orders lift, shoppers might be itching to leave and travel, which could also spur more sales. But consumer sentiment is changing each day, he says.

“We don’t know what the world is going to feel like in two weeks,” Saraceno says.

Another factor is that many of Peak Design products are designed for when consumers are traveling—something that U.S. consumers are not doing right now.

“Frankly, it’s a weird time to be marketing this premium price product that is a travel product. It is designed for an activity that we categorically can’t do right now,” Saraceno says.


The retailer, however, still decided to launch its planned travel tripod product—but with a charitable angle. Peak Design announced that profit from the first four days of that product’s sales will be donated, half to the CDC Foundation for COVID-19 relief and the other half to fight climate change via Climate Neutral.

Even though the retailers’ sales are hurting, it wanted to tie in a charitable angle to this product for a few reasons, Saraceno says. While this is a rough period for the retailer, it’s in a good spot financially because it doesn’t have any investors or debt in the company, Saraceno says.

“We’re generally in a better position to weather this than a lot of folks,” he says.

Plus, it doesn’t want to tout its success at a time when no one else is successful, but rather promote a “we’re all in this together” message. The charitable angle allows Peak Design to showcase its products while also being relevant to the current environment.


“This is a $600 tripod, which is a product that is not for everybody right now, considering people are losing their jobs, being furloughed or going on unemployment,” Saraceno says. “Having a giving strategy behind it gives us permission as a brand to be marketing a premium product in a strange time like this.”

It’s a tough line to toe, Saraceno says, as the retailer doesn’t want to offend anyone, but also knows there’s still an appetite for buying its products.

“You don’t know where people are at,” he says. “We’re trying to keep the lights on and keep things running and also not be tone-deaf. The last thing we want to do is be tone-deaf to people who are suffering.”

Peak Design also strives to remain transparent with shoppers about the state of its business. On April 5, the retailer emailed its shoppers a video recording of Peak Design’s weekly all-staff meeting, in which founder and CEO Peter Dering addressed his staff about the retailer’s current outlook.


The email also announced its sale and that profit from its new product launch would go to charity.

Other sales channels take a hit

Similar to sales on its ecommerce site, traffic and sales to its products on also plummeted. Because its products are deemed “non-essential,” its products would not be shipped for roughly 30 days, he says. Sales and conversion “ground to a halt,” and Peak Design stopped advertising on the platform, Saraceno says.

“We kind of got our legs cut off on Amazon, and there is nothing we can do about it,” he says.


Additionally, Peak Design in the future will have to contend with the coronavirus-related fallout for its wholesale business, which is roughly 67% of its revenue. (The remaining 33% of sales are between direct sales from its ecommerce site and pre-orders for products via Kickstarter and

Stores that sell its products are closed, which means Peak Design’s products are not moving off the shelves during this time. This means that when stores usually would need to purchase wholesale orders for Peak Design—because they’ve sold out of its merchandise—will likely be much later in the year once they’ve re-opened and sold the merchandise on hand. The retailer doesn’t know the numbers yet, but it assumes its retailers are having a hard time, he says.

Overall, the coronavirus pandemic has made Peak Design re-evaluate its business operations. The retailer already “tightened things up” in its budget, such as decreasing its advertising spend. The brand had planned in 2020 to invest in top-of-the-funnel marketing, such as billboard ads, podcast advertising and working with influencers, but it nixed those plans, he says.

One positive note is that its customer engagement campaign, an ongoing stay-at-home film festival and photography contest, has had a higher-than-usual response. Peak Design receives about 1,000 entries every week for its contest, which is much higher than usual, Saraceno says. This is impressive considering the submitted content requires consumers to take a picture and interact with the brand, he says.