BRIEF: French Soap Brand Opens 1st Canadian Store, Motherhood Maternity Closing Stores

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La Maison du Savon de Marseille Opens 1st Canadian Storefront Amid National Expansion: French soap and fragrance brand La Maison du Savon de Marseille has officially entered the Canadian market. Its first storefront in North America opened on Friday of last week in suburban Montreal. The 880-square-foot boutique is located at CF Carrefour Laval near the mall’s H&M store, and features an attractive interior that includes a tree with a seating area.

The 100% natural products manufactured by La Maison du Savon de Marseille include hand-crafted household soaps that are made in Provence, France. The artisanal soaps range from the authentic Marseille soap and Aleppo soap to the iconic perfumed soap that the brand is known for, as well as men’s products and home products. Prices in the CF Carrefour Laval store range from $4.99 to $29.99, excluding Christmas gift boxes and perfumes. The company says that its products are known for being therapeutic.

“We are very excited to be opening our first standalone store in Montreal to introduce our products to Quebecers. This is our first gateway to North America,” explains Stephan Samuelian, Co-Founder of La Maison du Savon de Marseille. “It was a natural decision for us.”

The company produces more than 250 kinds of soap that are fragranced by more than 200 perfumes from the town of Grasse. La Maison du Savon de Marseille’s men’s line includes shower gel, facial cream, and shaving soap as well as a branded shaving brush. The company was founded more than 15 years ago and can be found in retailers in more than 50 countries via wholesale accounts. The company has about 30 franchised boutiques in France and the new CF Carrefour Laval boutique will kick-off the brand’s direct-to-consumer expansion into North America.

More stores in the Montreal area are expected within the next two years. While leases haven’t been finalized, a downtown location and another suburban store are said to be in the works. A national expansion is also possible as the brand gains brand awareness. 

Motherhood Maternity Expected to Close All Canadian Stores Following Bankruptcy Filing/Acquisition: More than 30 Canadian stores operating under the Destination Maternity banner are expected to close in the New Year following a recently reported bankruptcy filing. In total, all 235 of Destination Maternity’s stores are said to be on the chopping block, with most being in the United States.

Destination Maternity filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US in October and announced a long list of store closures at the time. That included 13 Canadian stores that were listed in a Retail Insider Brief. Last week, Marquee Brands LLC acquired Destination Maternity’s name, website, and other operating assets for about US $50 million, while Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Retail Partners will run store-closing sales at the remaining 235 stores.

As part of the deal, Destination Maternity Corp. won court approval to liquidate its remaining stores. It follows controversy around the sale process which some claimed was ‘tainted’ by conflicts. The two retail liquidation specialists, Hilco and Gordon Brothers formerly worked for Destination Maternity and an application to the Court claimed that they had an unfair advantage given previous knowledge. That claim was struck down by a judge.

Destination Maternity’s 31 Canadian stores include 29 Motherhood Maternity storefronts as well as two branded Destination Maternity locations. Of those, 12 stores are in Ontario, seven are in Alberta, six are in British Columbia, two are in Manitoba, two are in Saskatchewan, and there’s one each in the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

The closures come at a time when landlords are grappling with store closures in Canada. Several chains have shuttered this year including Gymboree, Payless Shoes, Town Shoes, Davids Footwear, Home Outfitters, and Green Earth, among others. Forever 21 announced in September that it would shutter all 44 Canadian units with the last closing earlier this month. Last week we reported that Bentley Leathers would close 88 of its 251 stores in Canada as the retailer plans for growth under new ownership.

Luxury Watch Brand Breitling to Open Vancouver Store: Canada’s second standalone Breitling boutique will open soon at the base of the Terminal City Club at 855 W. Hastings Street. The store will be run in partnership with Palladio Jewellers, which relocated about a year ago into 900 West Hastings Street.

The new Breitling boutique will be contained in part of the retail space formerly occupied by Palladio Jewellers prior to its relocation across the street. The Breitling boutique will be the second standalone location for the brand in Canada, following a storefront that opened at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre in the summer of 2017. Brokerage CBRE Vancouver negotiated the deal under the direction of Mario Negris, Martin Moriarty, and Nolan Toigo.

Customer service is said to be paramount at Breitling’s franchised stores. At this year’s Salesforce Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, Breitling’s CTO Antonio Carriero described how his brand is delivering ‘white glove experiences’ at Breitling’s boutique franchise stores around the world.

In-store experiences at Breitling involves clienting, which is intended to establish long-term relationships with customers based on data about their preferences, behaviours, and purchases. Breitling uses Salesforce’s in-store clienteling app to assist the brand in fulfilling its customers’ needs in what it describes as three easy steps:

1.         Creating a connected system of data: A full 360 view of the Breitling customer means Breitling can accurately and efficiently service each individual depending on needs, preferences, and past shopping history.

2.         Empowering sales associates with brand-consistent sales apps: Clienteling depends heavily on the human interaction between sales associate and customer. Arming its associates with brand-consistent sales apps, Breitling ensures the delivery of prompt, informed interactions, leaving room for the associate to engage fully without worries about the logistics of making a purchase.

3.         Increasing visibility into store performance and building personalization capability at scale.

According to the Shopper First Retail Report 2018, 69% of luxury shoppers want exclusive products and in-store experience, and by 2025 45% of luxury shoppers will be millennials and Gen Z, according to the study. As well, 85% of customers say that they still prefer to shop in brick and mortar stores if they can anticipate the same level of service and personalization that they would experience online.

Luxury shoppers expect knowledgeable staff that can create meaningful and relevant conversation, and a personalized experience that is tailored to their individual preference. To tailor the in-store experience, Breitling empowers its store associates with an in-store clienteling app powered by Salesforce.

Brick-and-mortar retail is alive and well in parts of Canada as brands such as Breitling open physical retail spaces in major Canadian cities. While a ‘retail apocalypse’ narrative prevails in the media, experts are saying that there’s actually a shift in consumer behaviour that will have to be met with enhanced in-store experiences, as well as a seamless purchase experience across all sales channels.*

*Salesforce Dreamforce hosted Retail Insider Editor, Jessica Finch, in San Francisco recently, and some content created for this publication is part of that partnership.

Ardene Continues Large-Format Store Expansion with Growth Plans into 2020: Montreal-based fast-fashion retailer Ardene continues to expand its superstore concept across the country as the retailer expands its product assortment. In the fourth quarter of 2019, Ardene opened 10 new stores spanning between 12,000 square feet and 30,000 square feet. More will open in 2020, according to the company.

Most recently, Ardene opened a 15,500-square-foot location at the Sherwood Park Mall in suburban Edmonton. The large store was made possible by repurposing space vacated by a Safeway grocery store — it was replaced by a new Safeway store on the other side of the mall. A 25,000-square-foot location also recently opened on Ste-Catherine Street West in Montreal, across from Holt Renfrew Ogilvy in a retail space recently vacated by Forever 21. Other new large-format Ardene stores include two more units in the Montreal area, one at Carrefour Angrignon and one at Centre Laval, two in the Vancouver area at Scottsdale Mall and at Sevenoaks Centre, two Calgary locations at Deerfoot Mall and Sunridge Mall, as well as a location at Galerie de Hull near Montreal.

The large-format Ardene stores target its core ‘Gen Z’ customer with an experiential retail experience. That includes dedicated product zones and giant LED screens, phone charging stations, a social hangout, social media Photo Booth, and other ‘Instagramable moments’.

Ardene operates more than 350 stores across Canada as well as 13 internationally. More superstore concept Ardene stores will open in Canada in 2020 and beyond as the retailer shifts its strategy to experiential flagships. Ardene now has the opportunity to do so as retail space has been vacated by retailers such as Target and Sears, not to mention the closure/relocation of grocery and other big-box retailers.

Montreal-Based Designer Eve Gravel Becomes 1st Canadian Designer to Join Clothing Rental Platform Nuuly: Fashion designer Eve Gravel recently became the first fashion designer in Canada to join American clothing rental platform Nuuly. Pieces from the Fall/Winter 2019/20 and Spring/Summer 2020 collections are available on the popular Nuuly website. “ I am very proud to be part of this innovative platform offering a responsible way of consuming fashion and allowing its clients to be daring in their wardrobe habits,” said Ms. Gravel in a statement to Retail Insider.

Nuuly is a clothing rental service that was developed by the Urban Outfitters family of brands (which include Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and Free People). For a monthly fee of US$88, Nuuly subscribers can choose six pieces that will be delivered to them — if the customer likes an item, it can also be purchased. Nuuly is known to offer practical reusable packaging that makes delivery and returns easy and sustainable — an attraction as e-commerce is known to produce packaging waste.

The Eve Gravel brand was founded more than 15 years ago and its designs are known to be timeless with unique details offering a “casual femininity that leave room for self-expression”. That includes a vast assortment of styles ranging from everyday pieces to statement pieces that cater to a diverse range of women. The brand’s design studio and workshop is in Montreal’s Mile End area and clothes are ethically sourced. The company says that its locally-made product uses thoughtfully chosen fabrics, prints designed in house, and high quality local craftsmanship.

Clothing rentals is predicted to become one of the biggest trends in retail for 2020, with many new labels launching while others expand. One of the biggest places is Le Tote, which acquired US-based Hudson’s Bay Company-owned department store chain Lord & Taylor. Sources are saying that Le Tote could launch in Canadian Hudson’s Bay stores as the retailer prepares to launch ‘store of the future’ concept renovations in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

Ellie Mae Partners with COFO on Cannabis Accessories in New Toronto Retail Space: Toronto-based fashion designer Ellie Mae has partnered with Toronto-based furniture designer COFO to create a new cannabis accessory line that is being showcased in a new joint venture (pun intended) retail space at Toronto’s Stackt Market. The storefront opened earlier this month and features the accessory line alongside Ellie Mae and COFO Furniture designs.

The cannabis accessory collaboration includes products such as ‘doob tubes’ ashtrays, grinders and rolling papers that are said to incorporate a mix of both brands’ design aesthetics. That includes industrial silhouettes with quirky finishes.

A large new concept store space, located at Toronto’s Stackt Market, was co-created to showcase both brands. Also included are clothing items designed and produced by Ellie Mae as well as furniture that was designed and customized by COFO. Ellie Mae opened a smaller retail space at Stackt Market in the spring of 2019 to coincide with the launch of the unique shipping container retail complex that is located at the corner of Front Street West and Bathurst Street in downtown Toronto.

Ellie Mae’s unique designs have been worn by notable fans including Sophie Gregoire Trudeau. The brand designs and manufactures its clothing in Toronto. COFO’s website says that the company partners with emerging Canadian designers to create new products — clients include Nordstrom, Coach, J. Crew, Hermes, and Louis Vuitton.

Keurig Launches Yorkdale Pop-Up in an Effort to Create Brand Awareness: Coffee brand Keurig has launched a pop-up space at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre that will be open until December 23rd. The kiosk is a brand activation to create awareness for the coffee brand, which includes a ‘sampling station” where visitors can learn about the ‘K-Café’ Special Edition and the K-Duo Plus coffee makers. A unique component is the K-Mini Plus train which showcases the K-Mini Plus line-up that includes recently launched colours of the machine.

On December 21st and 22nd, Mandy from Mandy Calligraphy & Design will set up an art studio where she’ll add a personal touch to a hand-printed holiday card — only if a purchase is made, however. There’s also a ‘toppings bar’ where visitors can customize Keurig coffee selections.

Keurig’s pop-up comes at a time when coffee suppliers are fighting for market share. Yorkdale itself is home to a Nespresso retail space, and multi-brand retailers such as Hudson’s Bay also carry various brands. Keurig’s pop-up is part of a trend seen in Canadian retailing where brands seek to engage with consumers through experiences that will hopefully be memorable enough to create brand loyalty. Retail Insider recently featured Yorkdale’s innovative Kit Kat retail space (which is not a pop-up) that again is part of an effort to create an emotional connection through experiences to create top-of-mind awareness.

Planet Fitness to Open 1st Downtown Toronto Location at College Park: New Hampshire-based large-format fitness concept Planet Fitness will open this month at College Park in downtown Toronto. The 21,000-square-foot fitness centre will be the 25th location in Ontario, operated by franchisee the Taymax Group.

College Park, located at the southwest corner of Yonge Street and Collage Street, is a historic building that once housed an Eaton’s department store which opened in 1930. The building currently houses several retail tenants including a Winners and The Brick, as well as popular entertainment venue The Carlu. A 12,000-square-foot Sobeys grocery store will be rebranded to become Farm Boy in 2020, as announced last week. A recent outdoor revitalization included the addition of a new park that includes a 15 foot wide skating trail.

The Planet Fitness health club franchise known for its Judgement Free Zone® and affordable prices, says its members experience a hassle-free, non-intimidating environment. One novelty is a “Lunk Alarm” within each club, which is a purple and yellow siren on the way in that is used to gently remind people that grunting, dropping weights or judging others is not permitted. Until December 31st, memberships at the College Park Planet Fitness are only $1 down and as little as $10 per month plus a $39 annual fee.

The three-level College Park Planet Fitness will include new cardio machines, fully equipped locker rooms, many full-sized flat screen televisions, a 30-minute express circuit, two massage chairs, two hydro lounges, three tanning beds (two lay down and one stand-up), and a ‘Total Body Enhancement Booth’. The club will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Canada’s Top 10 Most-Searched Retailers: Software company SEMrush provided Retail Insider with data on the top 10 most-searched retailers in Canada. While the country is home to many international retailers, Canadian Tire was, by far, the most-searched retailer based on year-over-year average search volumes. Shoppers Drug Mart also scored highly. Here’s the top 10 most searched retailers in Canada based on average monthly searches this year:

  • Canadian Tire – 5,025,833 avg monthly searches
  • Wal-Mart – 3,355,000
  • Home Depot – 2,650,000
  • Best Buy – 2,536,667
  • Costco – 2,104,444
  • Shoppers Drug Mart – 1,150,500
  • Staples – 779,750
  • Home Hardware – 650,917
  • TJX (Winners, Marshall’s, Homesense) – 590,450
  • Lowe’s – 528,833

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