Upscale German fashion brand Hugo Boss is continuing with its Canadian expansion plans. We spoke with the retailer’s Canadian Managing Director Lanita Layton for details.
The Hugo Boss brand was founded by a man of the same name in 1924 near Stuttgart, Germany. The company has grown substantially to include various product categories, including men’s and women’s fashion, accessories, footwear and fragrances. The company sells in excess of 2.5 billion Euros annually, and employs over 12,500 people worldwide. It operates corporately-owned stores,concessions, and outlets, and also sells through franchises and wholesale channels. Hugo Boss recently made Interbrand’s top 100 brands for 2015 for the first time, reflecting Hugo Boss’ increasing popularity and respect in the industry.
Although franchised Hugo Boss stores operated in Canada in the past, it wasn’t until recently that the brand opened corporately owned locations outside of Vancouver. In 2007, the company opened its first Toronto location, featuring only womenswear, at Yorkdale Shopping Centre. That store was subsequently replaced by a dual-gender location in an expansion wing in November of 2012. In 2008, the company opened a location at West Edmonton Mall and in late 2009, Boss opened its massive three-level freestanding Canadian flagship at 83 Bloor Street West in Toronto. A location at Calgary’s CF Chinook Centre followed in the summer of 2013 and in the spring of 2014, a CF Richmond Centre unit opened in suburban Vancouver. Last spring, Hugo Boss opened at CF Toronto Eaton Centre and soon after, at Vancouver’s CF Pacific Centre below Nordstrom. The company also operates a concession at Montreal’s Ogilvy department store. The company’s oldest Canadian location is at Vancouver’s Oakridge Centre, which opened in September of 2005. Two previous Yorkville shops, and one downtown Vancouver location, have since closed.
The company also operates 15 shops-in-stores in retailers such as Harry Rosen, as well as six Boss outlets. The Bloor Street Harry Rosen Boss location is particularly remarkable, measuring an impressive 2,940 square feet.
Hugo Boss Canada Managing Director Lanita Layton explained that the company is looking to renovate and expand some of its more successful Canadian locations, particularly smaller stores that lack some of the brand’s new store design features. Boss’ updated store design is reflected in its recently opened CF Pacific Centre Vancouver location, which features Bauhaus-inspired interiors that are high-quality, bright, and feature an openness ideally enhanced by overheight ceilings.
Hugo Boss is also entertaining the possibility of opening new Canadian stores. Ms. Layton explained that the company would seek retail space in the 6,000 square foot range, ideally in top enclosed malls, with exceptional traffic and co-tenancies. Larger stores allow the brand to feature full men’s and women’s fashion/accessory/footwear collections, as opposed to smaller locations such as CF Richmond Centre and West Edmonton Mall which only feature men’s categories.
Ms. Layton explained that sales of Boss’ womenswear has grown considerably since Taiwanese Canadian designer Jason Wu took over as creative director. The young Mr. Wu, who also designs his own popular fashion line, is a favourite of Michelle Obama and many affluent women worldwide. Mr. Wu’s handbags and footwear lines for Hugo Boss have proven so popular that the retailer recently expanded the third floor of its Bloor Street flagship for more shoes and leathergoods.
Several years ago, Hugo Boss’ Canadian sales were approximately 40% retail and 60% wholesale. Those numbers have since reversed as Hugo Boss opens more corporately-owned stores, though Ms. Layton stressed that Boss’ wholesale accounts are extremely important and highly valued by the brand.
Although Ms. Layton wouldn’t provide an estimate as to the number of Canadian locations that Hugo Boss is ultimately looking to operate, she did explain that the brand is looking to grow some current locations and open in selected markets, while continuing to foster strong relationships with its wholesale vendors. Hugo Boss has had a relationship with some of Canada’s top retailers for a number of years, including top names such as Holt Renfrew, Harry Rosen, Henry Singer and Hudson’s Bay.