Roots Unveils 1st ‘Enhanced Experience’ Concept Store [Photos]

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Iconic Canadian retailer Roots has unveiled an innovative ‘enhanced experience’ flagship at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre. Featuring a fresh design and ‘customization workshop’, the new design will eventually be rolled out into major markets nationally, as well as into selected global markets as Roots expands its international presence. 

The Yorkdale store is strategically located between NYX Cosmetics and a soon-to-open Hunter Boots store, and is visible from Yorkdale’s mall entrance to the busy Yorkdale TTC subway station. Spanning more than 5,000 square feet on one level, the Yorkdale store is more than 2,000 square feet larger than its most recent location in the mall. The expanded square footage is being used to help enhance the customer experience, with its very first Customization Workshop where people can customize their Roots jacket design.

Roots is on the forefront of retail trends that include customization according to Jim Gabel, Roots President and CEO. “Physical stores will always be a critical asset for Roots because they provide a personal and social shopping experience. The long standing success of our current Yorkdale location motivated the move to the Enhanced Experience format”. He noted that “the ‘cabin’ design offers a wider merchandise selection, a dedicated leather customization space, an enhanced fitting room lounge experience, and in store pick up of online orders. Elevated leather and footwear shop-in-shops will also offer our customers a full range of seasonal footwear, jackets and leather bags– target growth categories for Roots.”

The Yorkdale ‘Roots Cabin’ design is bright and open, featuring clear sight lines that allow the customer to easily see product at the other end of the store. The space is also multi-functional — display tables can be combined to create a runway for fashion presentations, and there are even two DJ booths and a speaker system for in-store events. Dressing rooms feature canoe paddles mounted to the walls that can be used to hang clothing, and visuals in the dressing room area include the history of the brand, as well as rooms differentiated with wallpaper depicting spring, summer, autumn and winter. 

Locally sourced millwork is featured throughout, with reclaimed wood and Ontario cedar contrasting with artifacts from the Roots Canada archives. On one wall is an original ‘R’ sign from an early Roots flagship store, and near the footwear department is the machine that made the first negative heel shoe. On the walls throughout, as well, there is an array of celebrity Award Jacket replicas. “Each design choice in the space was influenced by our heritage: lighting fixtures inspired by our Leather Factory, the sign in our Footwear Department that hung over the door of our first store circa 1973, an oversized skylight that floods the store with natural light and transports our shoppers into the open air,” said Mr. Gabel.  

The in-store Customization Workshop is visible from the front of the store, described as being an “interactive, collaborative creative space that is digitally connected to The Roots Leather Factory (located about five kilometers away). Tactile samples can be examined while digitally designing the jacket on a screen. Roots heritage styles such as The Award Jacket, The Student Pack, The Small Banff Bag and The Downtown Tote can all be customized and personalized on the digital screen. In-store ‘Customization Experts’ guide customers through the process, and monogramming is also available for all Roots leather goods purchases.

There’s also a lounge area where customers can relax on Roots leather furniture while charging their phones and enjoying a refreshment (there are Roots-branded water bottles in a cooler). The lounge area doubles as an intimate spot for live performances and interactive listening sessions. Furthermore, eCommerce converges with the physical store experience in the ‘endless aisle’ area, which is a space that gives customers the opportunity to order online, pick-up and try on their online orders, and browse through inventory on or any Roots store throughout Canada.

In an interview, Mr. Gabel revealed that, this fall, a second Roots ‘enhanced experience’ flagship will open at Vancouver’s CF Pacific Centre, and more will eventually follow. He explained that the company is looking to roll-out the concept into major markets across the country, be it in existing locations or new stores. Mr. Gabel noted that there are some significant shopping centres that still lack Roots locations, including Vancouver’s Oakridge Centre and Edmonton’s Southgate Centre, and that Roots is also currently in expansion mode (though not confirming stores in these malls, specifically). Roots is also looking to expand further internationally — the brand has been well received in markets like Taiwan where it has 114 stores, and a US rollout is in the works that could also see stores featuring customization areas like that in the new Yorkdale flagship. 

See below for more photos of the new Roots flagship at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre. 

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Located in Toronto, Craig is the Editor-in-Chief of Retail Insider and President/CEO of Retail Insider Media Ltd. He is also a retail analyst and consultant, Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton, and consultant to the Retail Council of Canada. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for over 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees.

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