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Aesop Expanding Canadian Store Operations with Multiple Storefronts Over 12 Months

Upscale Australian skin care brand Aesop is continuing with its standalone store expansion in Canada this year with multiple locations in two major markets. The new stores will join the 12 other Canadian standalone locations that have opened since 2015, as well as concessions and stockists in multi-brand retailers.

One Toronto storefront, spanning about 780 square feet, will open following pandemic lockdowns at the Yorkdale Shopping Centre. An aluminium tile façade is said to have been inspired by the work of Canadian-born abstract expressionist painter Agnes Martin. A mill-finish aluminium structure over the entrance will be left bare to reduce overall waste said the company. Shelves and cabinets will be clad in a thin layer of locally sourced Canadian bird’s eye maple, contrasting the warmth of wood with a cool metallic sheen. A subdued matte floor will contrast will other elements.

The Yorkdale boutique is located in an up-and-coming luxury wing in the centre anchored at the north end by a recently-opened Louis Vuitton store. Other new nearby luxury retailers include Thom Browne and Golden Goose, with more luxury brands set to join them including a European brand by a Belgian designer that is said to be in lease negotiations.

Plans were in place in 2015 for Aesop to potentially open a storefront in the Nordstrom anchored wing at Yorkdale that opened in the fall of 2016, though a deal was never concluded.

Map of Yorkdale Shopping Centre showing location of the new Aesop store.
Map of Yorkdale Shopping Centre showing location of the new Aesop store.

In December, Aesop completed a new storefront in affluent midtown Toronto at 2579 Yonge Street — the physical store has yet to open to the public due to pandemic lockdowns which could possibly be lifted on March 8. The store features seven staggered cabinets simulating an internal streetscape of walnut joinery and reflective brass panels. A terracotta basin offers an opportunity to explore products first-hand. The pre-existing herringbone floor in the space was stained to harmonize with the walnut timber shelves — a WANT Apothecary storefront formerly occupied the space. The location is about a block south of the Sporting Life flagship on Yonge Street near wealthy neighbourhoods including Lawrence Park.

In Toronto as well, Aesop recently leased a 980-square-foot street front store at 94 Cumberland Street in Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville area. Aesop’s doorway will face onto Bellair Street next to a corner Tokyo Smoke storefront, both at the base of the recently completed Minto Yorkville Park condominium tower. Aesop will feature 18-foot ceilings and a listing on Loopnet indicated that length of a lease at 94 Cumberland, owned by Prowinko, were for five years terms.

Hilary Kellar-Parsons of Aurora Realty Consultants negotiated all three Toronto leases. CBRE’s Downtown Toronto Urban Retail Team, represented Prowinko at 94 Cumberland, acting on behalf of the landlord for this location. The 94 Cumberland Street podium is now 100% leased according to CBRE’s Arlin Markowitz after a third retail space was leased earlier this week.

Two Vancouver-area storefronts for Aesop are said to be under negotiation with more details to follow. Mario Negris and Martin Moriarty of CBRE Vancouver’s Urban Properties Group are a point of contact.

Aesop’s penetration of the Canadian market is becoming substantial, including concessions and distribution in multi-brand retailers. At Yorkdale and on Bloor Street, Aesop already has a presence on the beauty floors of Holt Renfrew stores.

Leased space on 94 Cumberland Street. Photo: Craig Patterson
Leased space on 94 Cumberland Street. Photo: Craig Patterson

Aesop entered the Canadian market in the summer of 2015 with its first location in Vancouver. The company subsequently expanded into the Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Calgary markets by opening standalone stores.

The first Vancouver store opened at 19 Water Street in the city’s Gastown area in 2015 in a 615 square foot space. Other locations that followed it include at 3583 Main Street in an up-and-coming area of the city as well as at 2072 W. 4th Avenue in Kitsilano. Sources say two more Vancouver lease deals are currently being negotiated.

Aesop’s first Toronto store opened shortly after the Vancouver Gastown store in 2015 at 880 Queen Street West in the city’s trendy ‘West Queen West’ area. Aesop’s second Toronto store opened at 1116 Yonge Street in the wealthy Rosedale area. In 2018, Aesop opened its first mall-based store in Canada at CF Toronto Eaton Centre.

The Montreal market is home to four Aesop storefronts, the first of which opened in 2016. That includes locations at 4968 Sherbrooke Street West in Westmount, 2493 Rue Notre Dame in Petite Bourgogne, Old Montreal at 239 Rue Saint-Paul W, and Mile End at 23 St. Viateur West.

Aesop also recently expanded into the Ottawa market with a store at CF Rideau Centre, as well as in Calgary at CF Chinook Centre. Sources say that discussions for a West Edmonton Mall location were also on the table.

The brand is also carried in Canada at Holt Renfrew, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue. Aesop is expected to maintain its presence in multi-brand retailers, given the clustering in department store beauty departments. Aesop competes with a wide range of beauty brands and in Toronto, it’s Bloor-Yorkville store will be a stone’s throw from Canadian beauty brand Deciem on Bellair Street.

Aesop was founded in 1987 in Melbourne by hairdresser Dennis Paphitis. Product packaging is simple, and its quality is considered to be exceptional. It sources plant-based and laboratory-made ingredients, and uses only those with a proven record of safety and efficacy. It operates free-standing ‘signature stores’ as well as wholesale operations in a variety of retailers, high-end department stores as well as in smaller independents.

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd.

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