During a time that will likely long be remembered as one of the more difficult periods in recent human history, stirring up confidence and optimism within the retail industry in Canada can seem inordinately challenging. The COVID-19 global pandemic and its impacts on business have been cold and unforgiving for many, resulting in a rash of bankruptcies and store closures. For others, whose operations have persisted through the crisis, the negative repercussions have been significantly felt, and they continue ongoing. Considering everything that the industry’s endured over the past nine months or so, the situation can be summed up as bleak, in the least. Despite the current retail climate, however, Montreal-based outerwear retailer, Point Zero, is braving the elements and forging ahead with an incredible plan to grow its network of stores across the country.
Expanding for the Future
The retailer, which just celebrated 40 years of business, recently opened 7 new stores in Ontario and Quebec and is now embarking on an aggressive strategy that will see them open up a further 50 stores in locations right across the country by the end of 2021. The impressive expansion will bring the retailers store count to over 70 and provide the already highly recognizable Point Zero brand with an established national physical presence in Canada. And, although the move may seem contrary to current conventional retail wisdom, Maurice Benisti, the company’s Founder and CEO, explains that it’s a necessary move for the company to secure its future success, despite the negative impacts that the industry has been collectively struggling through.
“You have to continue growing, or you die,” he says assuredly. “We understand how challenging it’s been for many within the industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Everybody has suffered. And we’re sure that we’ll continue to be presented with challenges. But, we’re also just as sure that these effects won’t last forever. We’re all going to get through this difficult time. And when we do, the Point Zero brand will be well-positioned to service our amazing customers with exceptional store experiences wherever they are in Canada.”
Benisti launched the Point Zero brand in 1979 with a focus on creating functional and stylish weather-wear for men. Driven by his passion for the fashion industry, he quickly grew the company, developing a reputation of respect, even adoration, among Point Zero’s customer-base for the quality of product that the company produces. By the mid-eighties, Point Zero had reached near iconic status, solidifying it as one of Canada’s leading fashion lifestyle brands. And, with the help of Benisti’s wife, Nicole, the company continued to succeed during the years and decades that followed, expanding its focus and offering to include women’s and childrenswear.
Designs on Growth
Today, in addition to the Point Zero brand, the husband and wife fashion duo also produce its luxury Nicole Benisti line of women’s clothing. The pieces, designed in Montreal, are described by the company as attire that combines luxury with streetwear “for the modern-day woman, exuding effortless elegance, sophistication, and glamour”. Pieces from the Nicole Benisti collection are often worn by celebrities, including Celine Dion, Jennifer Lopez, and others, and can be found in high-end department stores and boutiques alongside Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Prada. The brand has a remarkably strong international presence, recently opening a store in Shanghai, China, and is a portion of the business that Benisti is extremely proud of, calling it the company’s “super-luxury” offering. Its introduction and explosion in popularity the world over has bolstered the all-Canadian, Montreal-based operation and, as Benisti points out, has helped fuel its growth, positioning it well for its planned expansion of Point Zero stores.
“The Nicole Benisti product is very impressive,” he says. “And the success that we’ve enjoyed as a result has elevated the company to the same level as many well-known European brands. We’re really excited about the opportunities that it provides for the company and has allowed us to stretch our thinking with respect to the possibilities and potential of the brand. And, the growth that we’ve experienced as a result also allows us to take a more holistic approach toward the overall growth of the company, which is obviously reflected in our plans to open more Point Zero stores.”
Opportunities During Difficult Times
Currently located in Ontario and Quebec, with a handful of stores in Mexico and the Middle East as well, Point Zero’s expansion represents massive growth for the brand and the company, and provides an inspiring example of Canadian-made innovation and excellence during a difficult time when growth doesn’t seem like a realistic objective for most. It’s also reflective of the company’s positive attitude toward business and uncanny ability to continue realizing opportunities within the Canadian market. The most recent opportunity, explains Benisti, is in the more agreeable lease rates that have resulted from the unfortunate circumstances of COVID-19.
“The market seems to be in our favour at the moment,” he says. “The landlords are more realistic today with respect to the leases they’re charging in relation to the traffic that’s being generated. It’s providing us with access to a number of locations in many communities right across the country at rates that are reasonable enough to allow us to move forward with our current growth. There’s plenty of space available out there at the moment. And because we’re in the position to capitalize on this availability, we’re going to be able to realize an opportunity to engage more of our Canadian customers with the great Point Zero retail experience.”
Innovating to Evolve
Benisti explains further that Point Zero’s expansion plans include a number of locations within ‘A’ malls across the country, with partnership negotiations currently taking place with all of the major landlords in Canada. It’s all part of Point Zero’s dedication to innovate in order to continue evolving with its customer and provide them with the very best outerwear fashion possible – something its been doing for more than 40 years now. And, with the introduction of the brand’s ‘No Alternative Planet’ product, the innovation continues unabashed.
A line of stylish winter coats, the ‘No Alternative Planet’ product leverages recycled plastic water bottles for use as polyfill. It’s an innovation that aligns with Point Zero’s commitment to become carbon-neutral by 2025. And, as Benisti proudly points out, it allows the company to make a meaningful contribution toward the sustainability of the planet, reflecting the values that it shares with its loyal fanbase.
“Our customers care about the environment and the future of the planet,” he says. “And it’s also something that is very much a part of the Point Zero culture as well. We want to be able to give back to the planet, to make sure that we’re doing things as sustainably as we can to minimize the impact that we have on it and preserve it for future generations. Our ‘No Alternative Planet’ product is an excellent example of our commitment. The coats are produced to the same superior quality as the rest of our Point Zero coats, offering the same durability and protection against temperatures as drastic as -40 degrees Celsius. We’re very pleased about the outcome of this innovation and are excited about the introduction of ‘No Alternative Planet’ to our growing line of outerwear.”
The line, and Point Zero’s commitment to the environment, is a remarkable statement made by a company celebrating 40 years of business. It reflects its adaptability and willingness to think creatively to find solutions to the problems we all share. And, it also proves to show that the customer is always at the centre of the Montreal-based company’s focus. Offering a product that promotes environmental sustainability, Benisti explains, fits nicely into Point Zero’s overall mandate of sustainability, providing an unmatched quality of product and timeless designs, ensuring that longevity is comprehensively built into every item it produces. It’s a dedication to and focus on the customer that Benisti talks about with a sincere fervour, and is one that he says will continue to drive the company well into the future.
“The Point Zero customer means everything to us. And we intend to keep pushing, innovating with technology to make sure that we’re constantly and consistently meeting their evolving needs. We’re going to continue expanding our presence throughout the country and the world, improving our ecommerce offering and performance and digital capabilities, and providing an even better, more enjoyable in-store Point Zero experience. If we remain focussed and maintain our creative mentality with respect to everything that we do within our business, our potential, and the opportunities to grow the Point Zero brand, will only continue to increase.”