Canmore, Alberta-based Rocky Mountain Soap Company is about to launch a retail expansion, after evaluating its overall business strategy for the past couple of years.
According to CEO and co-owner Karina Birch, the company paused its retail store expansion in 2015 in order to perfect its product and customer service experience, as well as upgrade various systems and processes.
It’s paid off — Ms. Birch says that last quarter, the company saw almost 20% growth in year-over-year same-store growth, as opposed to about 10% growth in years prior. What’s remarkable is that seven of its 10 stores are in Alberta — a province experiencing a temporary economic slump that’s been attributed to low oil prices.
The product speaks for itself, noted Ms. Birch — founded in 1995, Rocky Mountain Soap Company offers a wide variety of 100% natural and toxin-free personal care products, using high-quality essential oils, pure natural beeswax, food-grade vegetable oils, real grains, fresh herbs and fruits and vegetables in its products. Customers are loyal, and the retailer’s customer base is growing rapidly.
Ms. Birch and her husband, Cam, grew the company from a single 300 square foot location in Canmore, to a chain of 10 retail locations in Western Canada, as well as boasting more than 700 wholesale accounts. Rocky Mountain Soap Company has stores in Canmore, Banff, Calgary (three stores) Edmonton (two stores), Vancouver (two stores) and one in Winnipeg. It also currently operates a pop-up location at Calgary’s CF Chinook Centre.
Natural beauty products is the fastest-growing segment in the beauty industry, and Rocky Mountain Soap Company is fortunate enough to have benefited from this trend.
The company stands out for how much effort and investment it puts into its ingredients and overall product development. Research is done in-house, as is manufacturing — the company has a 16,000 square foot worship in Canmore. Ms. Birch described how the company uses local products wherever possible, and how it focuses on using 10 ingredients or less in each of its products. “With less ingredients, you obtain higher quality,” noted Ms. Birch. Canadian ingredients are preferred as well and while that might cost more, Ms. Birch says that the resultant higher quality makes it all worth it.
The next 12 to 18 months will be a time of retail growth for the company, with Toronto being a key entry point for an anticipated three new store locations. The Greater Toronto Area is Rocky Mountain Soap Company’s biggest online market outside of Alberta, and stores are expected to further build relationships with clients. Rocky Mountain’s stores are interactive and educational spaces, and many retailers are increasingly seeing benefit to operating both physical and online retail channels.
Ms. Birch says that the company is looking primarily within high-traffic shopping malls for retail space, though it is also considering street-front locations in selected areas. Rocky Mountain Soap Company stores are ideally in the 700 square foot to 800 square foot range, and she says that she expects to open another nine or so stores over the next four-to-five years. While it represents a doubling of its existing store count. Ms. Birch says that growth will be calculated, and organic.
*Oberfeld Snowcap represents Rocky Mountain Soap as brokerage in Canada.