The Retail Association of Maine announced late last month that its board of directors had named Sea Bags its Retailer of the Year. Headquartered in Portland, Maine, Sea Bags designs, manufactures and sells bags and accessories from used sails. The retailer sells its bags via five company-owned brick-and-mortar stores, online at, and through more than 900 retail partners across the country. Leading Sea Bags’ e-commerce team is Laura Hnatow, who is also a Women in Retail Leadership Circle advisory board member.

The Retailer of the Year award is based on three main criteria: continued growth in employees or sales (during the past nine years, Sea Bags has grown from three to almost 50 employees); commitment of company resources to community projects; and creation of a positive work environment for all employees.

Sea Bags is committed to sustainability both in its products and processes. In 2014, the company saved more than 28,000 sails from going into a landfill, and estimates that it’s recycled more than 500 tons of sails since it was founded in 1999.

In addition, Sea Bags has pledged to keep the production of its bags in the United States, specifically the state of Maine. The retailer has worked to create a positive workplace culture, offering healthcare and career paths to its dedicated employees. Sea Bags gives back in other ways as well. It partners with the American Cancer Society to donate proceeds from the sale of its “Cure” collection (20 percent of every Pink Lobster Cure Collection purchase goes to the American Cancer Society through the end of the year), and SailMaine via the Sea Bags Scholarship Fund, which contributes money to help interested yet underprivileged children learn to sail.

“At Sea Bags, we strive daily to make a difference in our community, the environment and to provide a useful product that brings the essence of coastal living to customers globally,” says Hnatow. “It’s thrilling to have the Sea Bags crew be recognized by the Retail Association of Maine for our achievements in pursuit of these goals.”