Lolë Reopening Downtown Montreal Flagship after Shutting Over 30 Stores [Photos]

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Montréal-based lifestyle brand Lolë is reopening a store on the iconic Rue Sainte-Catherine in Montreal after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of all of its stores in May.

Lolë Forced to Close 31 Stores Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

The retailer had to close its 31 stores (20 stores in Canada from Vancouver to Halifax, seven stores in the US, four stores in France) due to the financial challenges presented by the coronavirus. The company at that time had about 200 employees.

“The world has gone through a challenging time and so has Lolë,” said Todd Steele, CEO. “Our stores closed across the country and it was a heartbreaking time for our employees and the company overall.

“We’re excited to welcome our customers to a brand new and revamped space that will be safe, stylish and full of the Lolë essentials they’ve missed enjoying in a store environment since lockdown.

“We closed our stores at the outset of the pandemic. We closed them globally and ultimately we went through a formal restructuring process where we exited the leases of those stores, we sold the assets of the company and re-started the company as Lolë Brands which is the new company name. This Sainte-Catherine opening will be essentially the first reopening of any retail we’ve had since the start of the pandemic.”

The company was started about 30 years ago.

“We make functional fashion product. We say that we’re at the intersection of outdoor active and fashion. Our brand for most of its history was female only, kind of women inspired brand. Essentially it was founded on the goal of helping women access the outdoors and lead a more wellness focused lifestyle but doing so in a very fashionable way,” said Steele.

“The company’s got a long history of building great outerwear and active products all designed here in Montreal and a great heritage.”

The Sainte-Catherine store is in the space of Lolë’s former Montreal flagship store near Simons and the Eaton Centre.

“It’s a space that we were in and we were fortunate enough to be able to return and open it up and began to kind of test and understand what the new retail looks like here in Montreal and here in Canada,” said Steele, of the store which is about 2,200 square feet.

It is larger than the typical former Lolë stores. The new store opened this month.

“The key for us is focusing on products. It’s not a huge transformation in our strategy. We believe we make incredible products, best in class products in our segment, and our goal is to continue to focus on that,” said Steele.

“Like a lot of other retailers pre-pandemic, in some cases, we grew too quickly and kind of got too large too fast. And so the idea is to more thoughtfully kind of begin to return to retail. We want to spend some time understanding obviously how we operate a store like this in a time of a pandemic when there’s restrictions here in Montreal and protocols but even assuming we get beyond those challenges we do think the entire process that the world’s gone through over the last several months has transformed how people think about and engage with brick and mortar retail.

“And we want to understand what consumers are going to do and what they want out of their retail experience going forward. We think of this store a little bit like a laboratory for us to begin to do some experimentation on retail for the future.”

The pandemic has changed everything. Comfort is key right now and we have to dress and think differently, said Vanessa Ladovan, VP of Product at Lolë. “People are being more mindful about what they are purchasing, they are looking for long lasting, versatile and functional products rather than quick purchases,” she said. “At Lolë we respect the art of design and are committed to making long-lasting apparel. We have gorgeous and sustainable fabrics that are leading the way in fashion: breathable, comfortable and functional for the new world we live in.”

Lolë Rethinking Model Representation as Part of Brand Rejuvenation

The brand is undergoing a change to make Lolë feel new and fresh in every way: including rethinking the way it showcases models and representation in its ads.

“It’s time for change,” said Glynnis Mapp Jacquard, Head of Marketing at Lolë. “Customers want to be inspired by the brands that they buy: they want to see themselves in the brands they love.

“We want to continue to celebrate the beautiful diversity of Canada and showcase our clothing in an inclusive way. We as a team are committed to that journey and process.”

Steele said the company is hoping it can expand in the future to more stores.

“We’re long-term believers in brick and mortar and physical experience. We think that customers want to engage with product. They want to find ways to become part of a community and find a brand that they believe aligns with their values. There’s something about the physical experience. It’s going to be different likely than it was but we think it’s going to continue to be an important part of retail and of selling product going forward.

“We’re going to take it slowly and one store at a time.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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