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Canadian Retailer ‘Boathouse’ Leasing Former Le Chateau Stores for Significant Expansion [Exclusive]

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St. Catharines, Ontario-based Boathouse, a retailer of men’s and women’s clothing, footwear, and accessories, is expanding its footprint across Canada seeking out retail spaces recently vacated by Le Chateau.

Janet Weatherhead, Director of Sales and Operations for Boathouse/Blackwell Supply Company, said the company is picking up a selection of Le Chateau locations in Canada.

“They’re going to do well for us because they’re large. Most of the locations are over 6,000 square feet with the biggest one being at the Kingsway Mall in Edmonton which is close to 8,000 square feet,” said Weatherhead.

“So we can really showcase our brands well in that space and we do carry an extensive shoe selection. The more square footage we have, the more we can showcase our shoes as well.”

Boathouse has committed to the following former Le Chateau locations: Mayfair, Victoria; Scarborough Town Centre, Toronto; CF Fairview Park Mall, Kitchener; Kingsway Mall, Edmonton; Gatineau; CF Fairview Point Claire, Montreal Island; CF Promenades St Bruno near Montreal; Southgate Mall, Edmonton; CF Carrefour Laval near Montreal, and CF Galeries d’Anjou, Montreal.

In the midst of this expansion, the company is also opening three more Blackwell Supply Co. shoe stores in Kelowna, Limeridge, and Halifax. A couple of the Blackwell locations were formerly Naturalizer locations and the one in Kelowna was a former Aldo store.

Boathouse, which began in 1973 as a small business, today has about 90 stores. There are also about 20 Blackwell stores, which are operated as a separate business.

Boathouse carries a massive selection of Carhartt, Champion, Calvin Klein, Kolby, Herschel Supply Co., Volcom, Adidas, Obey, Billabong, Vans, Crooks & Castles, Nike, SAXX, Timberland, Tentree, and more.

Exterior of Blackwell Supply Co. store. Photo: GL Smith

“We consider ourselves a lifestyle retailer which means we cater to brand conscious consumers of all ages, of absolutely all ages,” said Weatherhead. “We believe in giving our consumers the trendiest and hottest brands in the market right now. But we also believe in catering to the customer who’s been with us for the past 20 years.

“Some of our customers have worn Billabong when they were young and continue to wear Billabong.”

Known locally as Arlies, when the retailer began, the shop specialized in active lifestyle apparel, hard goods and footwear, catering to outdoor thrill-seekers and sports enthusiasts alike. Since that time, it expanded its presence in Canada and became known as Boathouse. It continues to sell active lifestyle brands, offering what it says is the best in clothing, footwear, accessories and more. In 2008 it launched Boathousestores.com.

“We’re still family owned and our office is still in St. Catharines,” said Weatherhead.

Boathouse has been reaching out to former Le Chateau employees for possible employment in the retail spaces it is taking on after Le Chateau’s departure.

“I believe that Canadian retail is one big family. I’ve always believed that,” said Weatherhead. “When we network, we all network together. When we go to Retail Networks Solutions meetings, it’s all retailers together. I think when a Canadian retailer closes it affects all of us.

“There’s enough room in the marketplace for every single retailer out there. So when one retailer leaves, it’s really devastating. It puts a lot of people out of work. It creates emptiness in malls. In Le Chateau’s case, at one time they were at the forefront of retail. There’s so much to learn from that company. In my opinion, they started Canadian retail women’s fashion. I think a lot of the practices and processes that they championed were put into place by many other companies.”

“Going forward we decided that we had to give them the first shot at any positions that were open.”

Article Author

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 now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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