June 7, 2023

Restock vs. Pre-Order: How We Think Through Our Order Strategies

Restock vs. Pre-Order: How We Think Through Our Order Strategies

We've received one question more than any other during the Side Hustle debut and restock process: "Why didn't you offer the Side Hustle as a pre-order?"

It's a valid question, and we want to address it.

The demand for the Side Hustle has been incredible. We've sold out of three batches within hours of each launch, despite increasing the batch size each time. In fact, our last batch was the largest in our company's history. We see a massive bump of sign-ups for “Back in Stock” alerts after each sell-out, so clearly our restocks have not been enough to meet demand. Naturally, you guys are wondering why we didn’t just start with a pre-order so we can allow everyone to purchase exactly what they want. 


We hear you, and further down in this blog we'll also list why we appreciate pre-orders as well. But first, we will start with why we chose #TeamRestock for the Side Hustle:


  1. Shorter Delivery Timeline: The Side Hustle is a less complex bag compared to some of the bigger bags in our collections (looking at you: Synik, Aeronaut, Techonaut, Tri-Star, etc.). We know that if we keep it at the top of the priority list for our Production crew, then the whole process of completing a large batch can take as little as two weeks. In fact, we debuted the Side Hustle on April 28th and have since restocked on May 11th and May 24th, so we’ve successfully met our 2-week timeline twice now! In a scenario where we instead choose to launch via pre-order, the timeline would be much longer than two weeks.
    • Here’s a rough breakdown of what we expect a Side Hustle pre-order timeline to look like: launch the pre-order window for 1-2 weeks to let everyone put in their orders, allocate 2-3 weeks minimum for priority production = 1 full month at the minimum to completion.
    • And if you missed the first pre-order, due to the setup of our systems, we won’t be able to start the second pre-order until the first pre-order is fully closed (i.e. every bag from the first pre-order is shipped out), so that means you’re likely going to have to wait a minimum of 2+ months for the earliest chance at getting a bag.
  2. We anticipated the Side Hustle would be popular (but not this popular) so wanted it to be a stock product immediately: Historically, we’ve used pre-orders to test the market (usually new designs and occasionally retired designs that folks ask to bring back) before committing to making it to stock or retiring it back into the vault. Given the ever growing popularity of our Side Kick and Side Effect and the fact that you guys have been asking us for a very long time now for another variation of a Side-bag with more capacity, we felt fairly confident that the Side Hustle would be popular right out the door and didn’t need to go through the pre-order testing phase. We’re humbled that the demand has surpassed what we originally expected, hence we’ve increased the batch quantity each restock and will plan to continue to make batch sizes above our normal quantities until you all are able to get your Side Hustle!
  3. Consistent Production Flow: Maintaining a balanced stock of finished bags has been a challenge for us since we transitioned out of making face masks in 2021. While pre-orders helped satisfy customer demand for specific bags, they caused spikes in production that made it difficult to plan a consistent flow. This resulted in long periods of certain collections being completely out of stock. This past year, we’ve worked hard to keep everything that is core to our collections stocked by maintaining a steady flow in Production, even during new bag debuts.

Restocking has its obvious shortcomings. Here’s a list that comes to mind:

  1. Risk of selling out quickly: Rapid sell outs result in a poor customer experience. With a pre-order, we can determine a set window for customers to put in their order, so there is a lower risk* of selling out in a few minutes or hours.
  2. Launch Times: We know setting an exact date and time for a launch of a bag can be a stressful shopping experience for some folks. Whether it’s work, school, family obligations, sometimes you are just not available at 10am or 2pm on a weekday to do online shopping. We also like that pre-orders remove this layer of added stress.
  3. Fewer Colorway Options: We risk stocking colorways that end up being unpopular with our customers. Whereas, with a pre-order, we can generally offer a broader assortment of colorway options** and let you guys tell us what resonates with you.
  4. Uncertainty in Planning and Resource Allocation: Restocks inevitably include a lot of guesswork for our team when it comes to planning. It’s much easier to allocate resources when we know exactly how many bags have been pre-ordered.

*We’ve seen some confusion from customers who believe that with pre-orders, the order limit does not exist. This is not true, just like restocks, the limit does exist. In the past, we have closed pre-orders early due to selling out the maximum amount we can make before our expected delivery time. We are limited by the materials we have on hand, whether it’s the fabric color or type, a custom part with long lead times to procure, or something else. Additionally, we choose to make every bag in our own factory in Seattle. Our Production crew of very talented seamstresses, seamsters, joiners, and floor staff can only make so many bags during any given window of time.

**Some customers have wondered why we don’t offer the option to fully customize the colorways according to their preference during a pre-order. With our current available supply of exterior and interior fabrics, we’ve calculated that there are over 160(!!) unique colorway combinations that we can put together. It’s simply not realistic for a business our size to be able to offer everything all at once while managing reasonable timelines for delivery. You can always drop us a comment on Instagram or emailus@tombihn.com if we haven’t yet made your dream colorway. We cycle through different colorways regularly and always take customer feedback into consideration. It’s worth noting that at the time of writing this blog, the Side Hustle has already been offered in 17 colorways!

As always, thank you all for the support! We appreciate your feedback and are always striving to improve to serve you better. If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to drop a comment below or shoot us an email. - The TB team


Celeste - June 13, 2023

I too would prefer the pre order option. I don’t have the time to jump on the site when a new batch drops. Would rather just give you money and you send me a bag when it gets made. Dislike the faux scarcity/flash sale model.
TOM BIHN replied:
Thanks for the feedback Celeste! We appreciate your feedback and want to assure you that our intention is not to promote artificial scarcity, nor are we doing flash sales. Our limited Production capabilities means that we’re often not able to immediately fulfill the initial demand, but rest assured we’re intending to keep the Side Hustle in stock (we’re currently running on an average cadence of one batch every two weeks) with batch sizes above normal quantities so customers have their opportunity to shop the Side Hustle!

Dean M - June 8, 2023

I was one of the people who asked if I could pre-order the Side Hustle!! I understand the decision to restock rather than open pre-orders. But alas, like some I too am overseas and so far it’s been 3am in the morning when stock for the Side Hustle became available – and one time I was up at 3:10am and the specific variant I was after was already sold out…

In any case I was lucky I was online when stock became available and I managed to get my second choice of variant (Deep Blue/Marigold – primary choice was Deep Blue/Zest) and it’s now hanging up on my hat stand at home. I say lucky because it seems the Side Hustle is too popular and after each restock notification its always sold out when I get online.

Dan Brown - June 8, 2023

Completely agree with Mattias for those of us outside US – I too have several items on my list as combining them makes sense due to import charges etc. (which I appreciate are outside your control) I wouldn’t mind waiting a few months as I have done in the past but at this rate my order will never be placed

Greg - June 8, 2023

I missed this a third time and it is getting aggravating. The notification that was emailed on the 7th went into the “Promotions” tab in Gmail and was 40 emails deep before I saw it on the afternoon of the 8th. I saw the email sent at 10:00EST on the 8th at 14:00EST, obviously stock was long gone at that point. I don’t really enjoy chasing the item and would prefer to just put in an order knowing it may be weeks before it is built and shipped. I can deal with the wait, I hate the continued frustration of missing the minutes long event. I am going to have to register my work email for notifications in addition to my personal email. My company blocks Gmail completely, so the only place I would have seen it was on my phone.


Susan - June 8, 2023

Thanks for explaining the process, it was a good plan! I had a calendar alarm set the moment you announced the bag. I’ve had the Side Kick, Side Effect and packing cube shoulder bag in constant rotation for years now, and they still look brand new! The Side Effect has often been the internal organizer, especially in the packing cube. And so easy to switch to belt bags—even tho I have the waist strap, I can also tighten up the shoulder strap for a change of carry position in the middle of an outing. The purple bags are an exact color match to my Valeria shopping bag for my beautiful Bolt Blue electric Brompton, and so convenient to toss in it. I’m now experimenting with how to attach them to the crossbar I added to the handlebar, so I can use them as a front bag for short rides.

The packing cube has done a number of waist-bag outings at the Macys Thanksgiving Parade (under the jumpsuit!) and at practices I’ve gotten more than one shout of “Tom Bihn!” from behind, especially with that NYC-loves-an-all-black logo. (Yes, we all keep a sharp eye out for a cool bag.) Enough room to stuff a hat and scarf into when all that balloon wrangling warms me up.

So while I snagged a Side Hustle in black/northwest immediately, I am still hoping to see a version of the gorgeous Deep Blue Ballistic I love so much with the dusk 210 Cerylon. My vote for the next color combo! 🙏

BTW, the Side Hustle really nails it for an all-day shoulder bag (LOL guess you knew that 10 min after orders opened). So happy w/the outside pocket too. Well done you, as always!

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