Sources are telling Retail Insider that Los Angeles-based Alo Yoga is building a flagship store in downtown Toronto and that the brand has plans to open several store locations in the Canadian market. Alo Yoga will go head-to-head with Vancouver-based lululemon which offers a lower price point and already has extensive name awareness here.
A new flagship store for Alo Yoga is said to be under construction at the northeast corner of Bloor Street and Bay Street in Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville area in a retail space most recently occupied by the Gap which shut in early 2021. A construction worker on site told Retail Insider that Alo would occupy the majority of the former Gap space which spans three levels and occupied about 17,000 square feet at 60 Bloor Street West. It’s a corner that Maison Birks CEO Jean Christophe Bedos said is the ‘best corner in Canada’ for retail during an interview several years ago.
The price point for Alo Yoga is generally higher than that of lululemon. Alo will likely go after a moneyed consumer so its choice for Canadian flagship makes sense — Bloor Yorkville is a wealthy part of the city with other wealthy residential areas located around it. The area is also growing quickly with thousands of condominium units under construction within a 500-metre radius.
Alo Yoga was founded in Los Angeles in 2007 by entrepreneurs Danny Harris and Marco Degeorge who continue to own and bankroll the business. The company says that it makes “the most technologically advanced yoga clothing in the world” with a “studio-to-street” ethos. Home workouts are possible with Alo Moves, an at-home fitness concept with a $30 monthly membership for unlimited yoga, fitness and meditation. The company has a non-profit called Alo Gives which it says will introduce millions of kids to yoga. Each week classes are shared on YouTube for free.
The retailer also operates Alo House experiential pop-ups which could come to Canada to help grow brand awareness and to engage with consumers. Alo is also getting into the music scene according to WWD, including a new recording studio in California.
Alo Yoga only has 13 stores, all of which are in the United States. Four of the stores in the NYC and Los Angeles markets feature yoga studios. Canada marks the first international expansion for the company which WWD reported is also looking at moving into the Middle East. Given the size of the new Toronto flagship, a studio might also be added to the space.
In an exclusive article in WWD, Alo co-founder and CEO Danny Harris said that the company is looking to open about a “half a dozen” more stores including Toronto and possibly a partner store in Dubai later this year.
“We have more [stores] coming, but we’re not really sure exactly how many more,” Harris said. “We’re a digital company first. So how many more stores that justifies, we’re not sure. We’re going to eventually go to major cities in Canada and to major cities all over the world,” he continued. Global centres including London and Paris are also among the targets.
Only one of the US-based Alo Yoga stores is located within an enclosed shopping centre, possibly providing an indication that future Canadian stores will be on urban street front locations. In the United States, several of Alo’s stores are in upscale outdoor strip malls, something less common in Canada because of the weather.
In Canada, one might guess that Alo will target the Vancouver market for a store, most likely in the downtown core on or near Robson Street or in the Kitsilano/Fairview areas on either West 4th Avenue or South Granville Street. A Montreal location could also be on the way either downtown or on a posh retail street address in Westmount. And in Toronto, a second storefront could be expected at the Yorkdale Shopping Centre, given its strength in attracting brands and consumer dollars.
It’s unclear what impact Alo Yoga’s entry into the Canadian market will have on lululemon. Alo is already distributed in Canada in several multi-brand retailers including Hudson’s Bay, La Maison Simons and even Indigo has some items on its website. Given that there are only 13 stores in the United States, it’s more likely that Alo will carve out extra market share in major markets with stores while lululemon will likely continue to dominate given its sheer size and store presence.
Alo Yoga will also compete with Gap-owned Athleta which has already opened two Canadian stores in Vancouver and Toronto. Athleta’s pricer point is lower and the brand focuses on women. Sources told Retail Insider in 2021 that Athleta had been a contender to lease the former Gap space on Bloor Street in Toronto, along with several other retail brands that bid on the coveted space. In the past, Montreal-based Lole was also looking at making inroads into lululemon’s market share but the retailer’s parent company went bankrupt in the summer of 2020. And speaking of lululemon, the retailer is said to be exiting its Cumberland Street location for a flagship store on Bloor, with details to follow.