Canmore, Alberta-based Rocky Mountain Soap Company continues to open new stores, and it is also renovating some existing units to reflect the retailer’s updated branding. We spoke with its CEO and co-owner, Karina Birch, to gain insight into why the retailer has become so popular, as well as its plans to expand into new markets.
Founded in Canmore in 1995, Rocky Mountain Soap Company offers a wide variety of 100% natural and toxin-free personal care products. The company uses high-quality essential oils, pure natural beeswax, food-grade vegetable oils, real grains, fresh herbs and fruits and vegetables in its products. Ms. Birch explained to us how she took a small craft business and turned it into an all-natural retailer with a team of in-house chemists, boasting 10 locations in Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba. Rocky Mountain Soap’s value proposition includes exceptionally informed customer service, promoting a healthy lifestyle free of potentially dangerous chemicals.
The retailer plans to roughly double its current store count over the next three years and as well, it will renovate some existing locations. Although it sounds ambitious, Ms. Birch explained how Rocky Mountain Soap will focus on quality over quantity, particularly focusing on the in-store experience, as well as growing its e-commerce business which now accounts for approximately 10% of its business. Its West Edmonton Mall location is currently closed for renovations and when it re-opens in October, it will feature the retailer’s updated aesthetic of environmentally-friendly and reclaimed materials. Notably, its recently opened Calgary Market Mall location features recycled marble from a building in Toronto. Photos in this article are of the Market Mall location.
Rocky Mountain Soap Company is working with brokerage Oberfeld Snowcap [Link to representative brokers] for its Canadian expansion. It seeks locations in the 700 square foot to 800 square foot range, both streetfront as well as in busy malls. Ms. Birch revealed that the company is looking to further expand into the Vancouver market where it currently has two locations, and then into the Toronto area within the next two years.
We spoke with HRC Advisory President Farla Efros, who explained how ‘small is the new big’ when it comes to some retailers. As consumer choices continue to grow, many consumers now seek unique offerings and as a result, we’re seeing more independent and pop-up stores in Canada. Some consumers, she explained, are also seeking out smaller businesses that create ‘community’ and ‘neighbourhood’ feel. Furthermore, these businesses tend to spend more time editing their selections, products and services and as a result, may be more likely to meet individual needs. She then went on to say that clear messaging, strong visuals and professional staff are necessary for any retailer — all of which are present at successful retailers such as Rocky Mountain Soap Company.
For those who are in Calgary on October 7, Rocky Mountain Soap Company’s Karina Birch will be presenting on the topic of independent retailers at Retail Council of Canada‘s MySTORE MySTORY Roadshow. For more information, visit: www.retailcouncil.org/events/mystore-mystory-fall-roadshow/calgary.