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‘Focals by North’ Unveils 1st Canadian Wearable Tech Retail Space

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Waterloo, Ontario-based tech company North, formerly known as Thalmic labs, has chosen two of the world’s trendiest locations to open its first-ever ‘smart glasses’ retail stores for its patented ‘Focals by North’ wearable tech. Last month a store opened in the Cobble Hill area of Brooklyn, New York, and this week, a second showroom opened at 113 Ossington Avenue in Toronto.

The concept was hush-hush for months as retail insiders speculated what was planned by then Thalmic Labs, which secured a retail space from landlord Hullmark. CBRE Toronto’s Urban Retail Team negotiated the Ossington Avenue deal (as well as other deals in Hullmark’s 109 Ossington complex) under the guidance of Jackson Turner and team Arlin Markowitz, Alex Edmison, and Teddy Taggart.

North’s showroom occupies the last vacant retail space in Hullmark’s 109 Oz complex and is directly south of women’s retailer The Latest Scoop and just north of Fresh City Farms, both of which were recently profiled in Retail Insider.

Thalmic Labs, which rebranded as ‘North’ in October, was founded in 2012 by three graduates of the University of Waterloo’s mechatronics engineering program — Stephen Lake, Matthew Bailey, and Aaron Grant. The company has grown substantially and now boasts a world-class team of engineers, researchers, designers and creators, according to the company. To date, North has raised more than US$135-million from investors such as the Amazon Alexa Fund and Intel Capital.

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North has succeeded where Google Glass did not, by creating a wearable tech device that also looks good on the enduser. North recently secured a patent for its latest product, Focals, which are custom-built glasses with a transparent, holographic display only the wearer can see. Focals allow wearers to seamlessly and immediately see texts, get turn-by-turn directions, check the weather, request an Uber and talk to Amazon Alexa, for example. North says that these tasks are “minimalist, glanceable interactions that quickly connect you to what matters most, without pulling you away from what’s in front of you.”

Focals by North aren’t cheap, however — prices are $1,299 in Canada and US$999 south of the border. Focals are custom-built to the exact measurements of the wearer using a unique sizing process, with two styles and three colours to choose from. Appointments can be made online or alternatively, customers can drop by for walk-in visits to the 113 Ossington Avenue showroom. At the moment, Focals by North are only available in the two retail stores.

Award-winning San Francisco-based architectural firm Envelope A+D, created the new Ossington Avenue  showroom in what it described as being a marriage of “simple design-language with an unprecedented level of engineering, for an experience that keeps the customer at the center and technology in the background.”

North says that it will focus on its first two retail locations before expanding the concept elsewhere.

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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