BRIEF: Volvo to Open Polestar Stores in Canada, Lululemon Shuttering All ivivva Stores

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Volvo Electric Car Brand ‘Polestar’ to Open Canadian Storefronts: Automaker Volvo electric performance brand Polestar will open storefronts in major Canadian markets, according to a press release issued on Wednesday. The first will open in Montreal in a partnership with Groupe Park Avenue, which has the honour of being a Polestar’s first retail partner in the Americas region.

Polestar is on the hunt for retail space in the Montreal market to open a first showroom in 2020. The Toronto and Vancouver markets will subsequently see Polestar retail spaces, according to the company, with plans for all three to be open by next June. Polestar’s retail spaces will be located in busy downtown locations where between two and three vehicles can be displayed, with non-commissioned salespeople and demonstrators to be part of the retail experience, according to a report in Automotive News Europe

The retail strategy is similar to Tesla, which operates a small showroom on busy Robson Street in downtown Vancouver as well as at the Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto. Hyundai-owned Genesis Motors operates several small showrooms in major shopping centres in Canada as well as at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. 

Groupe Park Avenue operates 18 automobile dealerships that sell 12 brands, as well as a Harley-Davidson dealership. 

Polestar also announced a new Country Manager for the Canadian business — Hugues Bissonnette

Lululemon to Shutter Remaining ‘ivivva’ Stores: Lululemon’s girl-focussed brand ivivva will shutter its remaining seven stores by early 2020 after a 10+ year run. Three of the remaining locations are in Canada and four are in the United States. Lululemon will also decommission eight ivivva shop-in-stores currently within larger Lululemon stores. The closures follows the June of 2017 announcement where Lululemon said that it would close 40 of the 55 ivivva stores that were operating then. 

The ivivva brand’s product focused on girls aged 6-14 with a range of athletic sportswear focused on dance, running, yoga, ice skating, gymnastics, and court sports. Its first store opened in Vancouver in 2009 expanded into the US in 2012 — the chain expanded to about 70 locations in both countries. In June of 2017, Lululemon announced that most locations would close. 

The remaining locations set to close include three Canadian locations including 2123 W. 4th Avenue in Vancouver, Vaughan Mills near Toronto, and West Edmonton Mall. US closures will include ivivva units at the Somerset Collection near Detroit, NorthPark Centre in Dallas, 92 Derby Street in Boston, and at the Mall of America in suburban Minneapolis. 

The store closures won’t be nearly as challenging to fill as with the closure of major chains Forever 21, which earlier this month announced an exit from its Canadian operations. In terms of size, ivivva’s West Edmonton Mall store measures 2,375 square feet according to lease plans, and its Vaughan Mills unit is 1657 square feet.

Lululemon has plans to double its men’s business as well as online sales, and plans to quadruple its international business by 2023. 

Tobacco Outlet Cigar Boutique adds a Fourth Store in Calgary in an Upscale Neighbourhood: After an overwhelming reception of its last store in Calgary’s West MarketTobacco Outlet Cigar Boutique has just opened a fourth shop in Calgary at 5128 Elbow Drive S.W. in the upscale Britannia area. The retailer says that there has been a demand for Tobacco Outlet’s approach in the niche market despite adverse conditions for retailers, especially in Calgary and even more so in the tobacco industry.

As with the three other locations, the newest boutique offers a wide selection of cigars, specialty tobaccos and select emerging tobacco products. The store features an official IQOS (a “heat not burn” technology that uses real tobacco but avoids the smoke) shop-in-shop —  the only official IQOS shops in Calgary. An in-store walk-in humidor is slightly raised and surrounded with glass to maintain “perfect conditions” for cigars.   

The new shop is located at the base of Britannia’s ‘The Windsor’ residential complex which opened late Summer. OrangeTheory Fitness and Planet Organic are anchors.

Pricing at Tobacco Outlet Cigar Boutique is kept competitive while the retailer aims to provide an exceptional customer service experience. Challenges in the industry include the government’s complete overhaul to convert to plain packaging and the retailer says that having well-trained staff as well as attractive and well stocked storefronts is paramount. 

Business partners Mike Kinch and Calvin Quan, who met 31 years ago in junior high, opened the first Tobacco Outlet Cigar Boutique in Calgary’s Bridgeland area in 2011. That was followed by locations in Silverado and West Market. 

Upcoming IT@CA Event to Feature Prominent Italian Retail Figures: The first-ever IT@CA event is set to take centre stage at the Toronto Design Exchange on October 25, 2019. The daylong program will present seven of Italy’s cultural and commercial success stories, including legendary retailer Oscar Farinetti, who is set to bring his luxury Italian grocery store, Eataly, to Toronto in November. Additionally, Riccardo Illy (illy Caffé) and Angelo Gaja (Gaja Wineries) have produced some of the world’s foremost coffee and wine products that have lined retail shelves across the world throughout their storied histories. 

The event’s organizers – Embassy of Italy to Canada, Consulate General of Italy in Toronto, Italian Trade Agency, Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Italian National Tourist Board and Italian Chamber of Commerce of Ontario – have organized a diverse lineup of speakers in addition to the aforementioned retailers. Joining them will be theatre figure Rosanna Purchia, Arctic scientist Antonio Meloni, architect Michele De Lucchi, and photographer Oliviero Toscani. The event is hosted by TV Personality Laura Albanese and moderated by CBC’s Rome correspondent, Megan Williams. Ticketing information can be found at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/itca-italys-creativity-culture-and-entrepreneurship-in-canada-tickets-68798158143

Caroline Neron Shutters Remaining Stores: The website for Montreal-based jewellery and accessory designer Caroline Neron is no longer operational as her company shutters its business, which included several retail stores. The brand had plans to expand across Canada at one time and had a storefront at West Edmonton Mall that operated briefly. 

The well-known access and singer founded her namesake brand in 2004, beginning with wholesaling jewellery and accessories. In 2010, the company launched its first store locations in the province of Quebec. The company sold accessories, handbags, and jewellery, and also retailed a line of fragrances and sunglasses. Besides its headquarters in Montreal, Caroline Neron also had an office in Paris. 

When we last reported on Caroline Neron in October of 2016, the company had 12 standalone stores in Quebec as well as extensive wholesale distribution. After launching its first store outside of Quebec at West Edmonton Mall that year, the company had plans for an aggressive store expansion that would have included standalone units in Toronto at Scarborough Town Centre and at Mississauga’s Square One in late 2016, followed by fall 2017 openings at CF Toronto Eaton Centre and Yorkdale Shopping Centre. Vancouver and Calgary stores were planned with an ultimate goal of operating between 20 and 24 storefronts while also expanding wholesale distribution in multi-brand retailers. An international expansion was also in the works with standalone stores in the United States as well as international e-commerce business. 

The company went into bankruptcy in January of 2019 with debts of more than $9 million — with 14 stores operating at the time, financial agreements were made with creditors in May of this year. Restructuring was a challenge and Ms. Neron told Marie-Eve Fournier of La Presse in September that insurmountable costs made it impossible for Caroline Neron to pay bills on time. High rents were partly to blame, according to Ms. Neron, with annual lease payments for the CF Carrefour Laval store in suburban Montreal being $225,000, for example. When that lease was signed five years ago, the retail climate was different and sales began tanking subsequently. 

Ms. Neron told La Presse that she has no plans to revive her retail business, and that she intends to give lectures on her life lessons over relating to the situation. 

President’s Choice and Community Food Centres Canada Partner to Fight Food Insecurity Across Canada: The Big Social is a new national fundraising campaign that supports healthy food programs in low-income communities. The initiative will see thousands of meals hosted in communities across Canada between November 1st – 10th. 

People sign up to host a meal at BigSocial.ca, set a fundraising target, and invite their friends and family. The type of meal is up to the host – it could be a potluck, an easy family dinner, a supper club – even an office lunch.  Guests are asked to make a small donation to the cause instead of brining a gift. The goal – to have 1,000 participating Canadians host a meal and collectively raise $100,000. The money they raise supports low-income Canadians access healthy food and empowering programs.

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