BRIEF: French Retailer Looks to Enter Canada, SPINCO Continues Aggressive Expansion

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LVMH-Backed Fashion Brand ba&sh’ looks to enter Canadian market by opening stores


Another international brand is looking at expanding into the Canadian market by opening stores. French luxury fashion brand ba&sh is on the hunt for retail spaces in Canada as it expands into new markets with a direct-to-consumer strategy. 

Founded in Paris in 2003, ba&sh is a “fast growing affordable premium fashion brand”, according to the company which “manufactures a full range of women’s apparel, with a distinctive design”. Collections include fashion apparel as well as a range of bags, accessories and footwear. ba&sh is sold primarily in mono-brand retail locations in France as well as in department stores and online, with a standalone international expansion in the works for markets including the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Asia, the United States, and now Canada as well. In the United States, the retailer operates stores in New York City, Beverly Hills and Miami, with all locations being on urban street-fronts. Given how many first-to-Canada retailers launch at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre, we wouldn’t be surprised if ba&sh’s first Canadian store is a first on the continent to be located in an enclosed shopping centre.


Cadillac Fairview Launches Innovative ‘Wear Canada Proud’ Pop-Up in Collaboration with Ravel by CF and CAFA


This week a temporary retail space opened at CF Toronto Eaton Centre in an effort to support Canadian fashion talent. Located in Albert’s Way, the space is open until July 12. Unique designer programming will run consistently throughout the three-week experience. 

It’s the first collaboration between Ravel by CF, CAFA and Wear Canada Proud will allow shoppers to discover a variety of Canadian designers, brands and purchase a selection of curated products onsite while also learning more about the designers behind the creations. Included is a curated selection of products from Dean Davidson (CAFA 2019 Accessory Designer of the Year award winner), Biko, Leah Alexandra, Matt & Nat (CAFA 2019 Fashion Impact award winner), Moose Knuckles, Hilary MacMillan, Roots, NOGU, and Jenny Bird (past CAFA winner) who has also designed exclusive pieces for the pop-up.

We previously reported on Ravel by CF, which launched in February 2019 as an innovative digital platform that is focused on helping Canadian retailers and the fashion industry at large remove friction from today’s retail environment to create greater connections between consumers, and bricks and mortar investments. The CF Toronto Eaton Centre pop-up activation provides Ravel with an opportunity to pilot new payment solutions for greater consumer engagement, while offering retail partners new direct to consumer sales opportunities.  

CAFA was created to support and celebrate the Canadian Fashion industry, and last month it held a gala and awards for local talent. Wear Canada Proud is a movement that invites and rallies Canadians across the country to wear Canadian fashion and take pride as a fashion nation.

Toronto-Based Women’s Custom Suiting Brand ‘Nicole Bach’ Launches Showroom


A new women’s custom suiting brand has launched in Toronto to address a need in the market. The company was founded by Oksana Ringsma, Jasmine Janowski and John Chao in December of 2017 and started seeing clients at its showroom at 638-121 Richmond St W in the spring of this year (showroom open by appointment). 

The founders behind the Nicole Bach brand says that it was developed “as a response to witnessing the disadvantage women have when it came to dressing professionally”. After years of working in the retail industry, the founders’ saw frustration that women experience when shopping for staple tailored garments. “The lack of consistency in sizes between labels, paired with the wide range of women’s body types, means the majority of women struggle to find the most basic pieces,” the company says. Over the last year and a half a series of testing patterns and fabric have been completed in order to curate a service made for clients.
The company offers both made-to-measure and bespoke services, all made in Canada. It’s said to be a modern take on the traditional craft of custom tailored suiting, and Nicole Bach has adapted the concept of a made-to-measure shop to be geared towards women exclusively. Blazers, trousers, and skirts are all offered based on the pattern selection that Nicole Bach has developed. Since orders are custom made, clients have the ability to create a wardrobe that is tailored to their wants and needs. In addition to supporting the circular economy and contributing to the Canadian fashion scene, this is “a destination for women to efficiently build a professional image without the time and stress associated with shopping traditional retailers”, according to Nicole Bach. 

Nicole Bach’s appointment-only space, located in the heart of Toronto’s financial district, offers private consultations and fittings. The garments housed there are intended for size fittings before selecting style, fabric and notions. While the fabric selection has been curated from mills in Europe and the buttons have been hand-picked, custom sourcing is also available by request. Some notable changes that have been made to speak to women, include: stretch lining and fabric, inner pockets, optional sweat guards, and a series of fashion-forward customizations. The Toronto showroom is now open to the public.

SPINCO Marks 5 Year Anniversary with Aggressive Expansion


Canada’s largest spin studio chain SPINCO is marking five years in operations as it looks to potentially almost double its location count by the end of the year. SPINCO was founded by Michelle August when she was just 22 years old in Kelowna, and the chain has grown to 12 locations with almost 400,000 riders coast-to-coast. 

Remarkably, SPINCO says that it is aiming to have 20 locations in Canada by the end of 2019, with three of those slated to open later this summer in Hamilton and Thornhill in Ontario, as well as a unit in Moncton, New Brunswick. 

Ms. August has included philanthropy as part of SPINCO’s business model. Every studio features weekly Spin It Forward rides as part of its ongoing Charity Ride initiatives, which have raised over $400K for local causes with that number set to grow substantially with the expansion. 

SPINCO has expanded its partnership program and this year, it created national partnerships with Bumble and WeWork, along with a new in-store retail pop-ups including the recent launch with MICHI. SPINCO will also launch a new sustainable studio overhaul in July of 2019 that included adding an all-natural shower line, getting rid of all plastic water bottles (replaced with Cupanions fill it forward clean water program), compostable shower bags and internal procedures on towel usage. 

Given the influx of international fitness concept such as SoulCycle, SPINCO’s rapid expansion and overall success is remarkable. The company told Retail Insider last year that it could eventually operate as many as 50 studios in Canada in the coming years, depending on opportunity.

1st Automated Self-Service Pharmacy Opens in Toronto’s Church & Wellesley Neighbourhood


MedAvail Technologies and PenguinPickUp have launched SpotRx Pharmacy, which is the first automated, self-service pharmacy in Toronto’s Church & Wellesley community. The innovative pharmacy kiosk offers customers an alternative way to fill prescriptions which it says is “on their terms, anytime, anywhere. Simple, easy and convenient.” 

The SpotRx pharmacy kiosk is located at PenguinPickUp’s downtown Toronto location at 609 Church Street (a short walk south of Bloor), providing easy access to over 600 available prescription and over-the-counter medications as well as access to a licensed pharmacist via video conference to answer any questions. The SpotRx kiosk complements the convenience of PenguinPickUp as a one-stop location, offering access to pharmacy medications and other facility grocery ordering and delivery services.

The kiosk accepts electronic and handwritten prescriptions and accepts all prescription insurance carriers and can process payments via debit or credit card. The most commonly prescribed medications and over-the-counter products are also available. 

“The SpotRx kiosk is truly the pharmacy of the 21st century. We are providing consumers with simple, on-demand access to a pharmacist through private audio-visual communications built into the kiosk,” says MedAvail CEO Ed Kilroy. “The SpotRx mobile app allows our customers automated prescription pickup in as little as 60 seconds. Customers can choose to pick up their prescription at the SpotRx kiosk or have it delivered to their work or home. We’re listening. It’s a matter of preference and convenience,” Kilroy added. 

Egil Moller Nielsen, Senior Vice President, PenguinPickUp, said, “At PenguinPickUp, we want to bring products and services to busy urban dwellers and with SpotRx, customers can now do all their grocery shopping, dry cleaning, courier services and now buy prescription medicines and much more in ‘one-stop pick-up’.”

The opening adds PenguinPickUp to a growing list of Canadian locations equipped with a SpotRx interactive kiosk. Developed in Mississauga, the pharmacy solution operates seven SpotRx locations across the GTA with more openings planned. 

North America’s Largest Meditation Studio Attracts Visitors in Toronto


Hoame is said to be North America’s largest modern meditation studio. The 5,000-square-foot oasis was designed to proactively address mental health, stress, and anxiety, which will no doubt be useful for those living in Canada’s largest city.  

Co-founders Stephanie Kersta MSc, RP and Carolyn Plater-Zyberk MSW, RSW are registered psychotherapists who specialize in treating anxiety, sleep, and stress. They recognized that our modern stress-filled lifestyle is largely to blame for the mental health crisis we face today. They took their clinical expertise to the mainstream with an intention to eliminate the idea that stress is a normalized and acceptable state of being. 


At Hoame, four standout spaces cater to modern wellness needs. A ‘Light Meditation Room’ with a living wall of greenery and rows of meditation cushions is featured in the new space. The ‘Dark Meditation Room’ provides ‘pause’ before entering. With a cosmic, lit-up ceiling and curved walls, the Dark meditation room offers the ideal place to calm the mind after spending hours under fluorescent lights. It’s the Himalayan Rock Salt Cave that is said to be the stand out star of the space. With over five tons of Himalayan pink crystal salt, the salt cave doubles as a soft meditation and sleeping spot. Finally, the Infrared Sauna is a relaxing space that allows you to sweat away toxins in an infrared heated room with soothing music to help the release of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins.

Meditation classes are offered in 30 and 60-minute segments with a relaxing sleep class designed to induce a deep meditative state of conscious relaxation. Hoame’s signature class, RISE, is a testament to the popularity of modern ways to move the body. RISE energizes the body and mind with high-intensity movements incorporated into the meditation. It challenges you to tread outside of your comfort zone and become comfortable with being in the now.

Hoame is located at 430 Adelaide Street West in Toronto’s rapidly transforming downtown core.

Young People in Retail Industry at Higher Risk for Workplace Injuries

For many young people, the start of summer means going back to or starting new summer jobs. According to 2018 data from the WSIB (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board), young people in Ontario reported over 8,500 workplace injury claims in the year. The jobs with the highest claim numbers were largely retail industry-related, specifically food counter attendants, kitchen helpers, retail salespersons and sales clerks. Top injuries included sprains and strains, bruises/contusions and concussions and fractures. In response to these statistics, the (WSIB) wants workplace health and safety to be top-of-mind during the summer season and has designed a campaign for young people and their parents to highlight the importance of being safety conscious at work.

Breaking down the wall of invincibility and empowering young people to speak up and ask questions before working in unsafe environments can help lower workplace injuries among this age group. The Practice Safe Work campaign is a nod to the ‘model employees’ the WSIB introduced last year, featuring wooden models getting injured at work. Now, the models are back, living in a post-injury world and dealing with the ‘consequences’ of their injuries. Despite their light, irreverent tone, the videos have a powerful message – ‘workplace injuries can ruin your summer,’ in more ways than one. 

The  website offers information on the types of questions young people or their parents can ask employers, what to do in the case of an injury, and an overview of the three basic rights as laid out in The Occupational Health and Safety Act (Message brought to you by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) Ontario).

Instagram Launches Branded Content Ads in Canada

Social media platform Instagram has introduced the ability for advertisers to promote creators’ organic branded content posts as feed ads. The highly requested feature is now available globally, including in Canada as of this week. 

How it works:

  1. A ‘creator’ posts on Instagram ‘organically’. When they go to add the “Paid Partnership with” tag in Advanced Settings, they then can also turn on a toggle that says “Allow my business partner to boost”.
  2. Turning on this toggle enables the post to show up in the tagged business partner’s Ads Manager, under Existing Posts.
  3. In Ads Manager, the Advertiser can then run this post as an ad, which will appear with the new format.

With these ads, Canadian businesses can now reach new audiences beyond the people who follow the brand and creator accounts. Instagram says that they can select the right audiences by leveraging the tools in Facebook’s ad platform. With these ads, businesses have access to ad measurement and can optimize and test their campaigns against their goals. For brands, it helps them understand what’s working and use that insight for effective marketing campaigns, according to Instagram.

Over two thirds of people come to Instagram to interact with creators, according to the company. Given that these online communities are the core of Instagram’s platform, the feature will enable creators and businesses to reach new audiences, and brands to boost creator content that bring their stories to life.

Just don’t post anything too racy — Instagram has been ’shadow banning’ some content that it deems to be ‘inappropriate’ while not necessarily violating community guidelines, and there’s been considerable anger from some models and others posting photos that feature limited clothing or otherwise ‘provocative’ poses. Some are calling it censorship. 

A Marketing Initiative Misses the Mark?

Image: Mandarin Restaurants

Brampton, Ontario-based Chinese buffet restaurant chain Mandarin Restaurants announced this week that it will be offering free meals on July 1 for Canada Day. As part of Mandarin Restaurants’ announcement, it was stated in its press release as well as on social media that “Proof of Canadian citizenship is required to attend”. 

Mandarin Restaurants operates 29 locations in Ontario and the deal is offered from 12-noon to the last seating at 8:30pm on Canada Day. About 40,000 spring rolls, 2,500 pounds of rice, 65,000 sweet and sour chicken balls, and 40,000 fortune cookies will be given out, while the chain also launches a “Celebrate Canada” menu featuring a selection of “nationally-inspired food favourites, like Poutine and Maple Barbecued Ribs”.

We’re not sure if Mandarin Restaurants will actually be checking identification at the door, though the campaign has been met with backlash on social media. Permanent residents and others lacking status as a Canadian citizen are expressing anger over that appears to be discrimination.

It’s reportedly the fifth year that Mandarin Restaurants has run the promotion and we hadn’t heard of any backlash in the past, though this week some are voicing their opinions on social media such as Twitter. Below are a few examples based on a Tweet sent out by Mandarin Restaurants — optics in marketing is as important as the offer itself, though the restaurant chain is getting some extra attention nonetheless. 

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson
Located in Toronto, Craig is the Publisher & CEO of Retail Insider Media Ltd. He is also a retail analyst and consultant, Advisor at the University of Alberta School Centre for Cities and Communities in Edmonton, former lawyer and a public speaker. 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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