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Canadian Retailer ‘Showcase’ Launches Major Expansion into the US Market: Interview

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Showcase, the ‘home of the hottest trends’, has launched a major expansion into the US market.

The company is planning to open 27 stores in 12 States with more to come in the future – the largest and fastest single expansion in the company’s 28-year history.

Showcase, a privately-held company that began in Edmonton in 1994, operates 109 Canadian trend stores in top tier malls from coast to coast, with the exception of Quebec, and established a retail footprint in the US Northeast in 2019 opening 10 locations.

“Now that Showcase has saturated the Canadian market, occupying space in 93 per cent of the country’s malls, we believe there is tremendous growth potential for our unique business model in an untapped US market,” said Samir Kulkarni, CEO, Showcase. “Millions of American consumers are in for an amazing surprise when they are introduced to the Showcase brand, and discover our stores are filled with the hottest and trendiest items they won’t find anywhere else.

Image: Showcase
Samir Kulkarni

“We have a long record of success, creativity and innovation in Canada, and we intend to build on this foundation in the US, integrating our physical and digital channels, growing our market share, and increasing member loyalty to solidify our position.”

The new locations to open this summer are in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio. They will be supported by a new 147,000-square-foot distribution centre in New York.

Kulkarni said additional store openings in 2022 will be announced in the upcoming months.

“We are a trend business. So the trends change constantly and the assortment changes with consumer taste. The assortment today would be quite different from what you would have seen two or three years ago. But we are essentially the home of the hottest trends, the focus is on emerging trends in health, beauty, home and toys,” he said.

Kulkarni said in Canada the retailer had been opening one store a month for many years.

Image: Showcase

“Essentially we saturated the English Canadian market and so as we thought about how our concept could grow further what we came to realize is that the US is really the next logical step,” he said. “Roughly speaking with 100 stores in Canada population-wise that equates to 1,000 stores in the US.

“So that’s where the big push is for us. We see our business model as quite unique and not easily replicated. Certainly no direct competitor in the US that we see. We thought that the concept would be well received so that’s why we started with the 10 pilot stores which opened in 2019 and now that the pilot program is complete and those stores are successful, we decided to roll out in a bigger way. It started with the opening of our US distribution centre outside of Buffalo, New York  . . . that DC will service the US stores and then we have up to 50 stores opening this year in the US. That will bring us to a total of 60 stores by the end of the year in the States.”

Kulkarni said 27 stores will open this summer and hopefully another 23 in the fall subject to supply chain considerations. By the end of this year, the retailer will be in about 15 States.

“Showcase has always been about trends and about giving consumers what they want now. We’ve built flexibility and adaptability and data into our business model. So we’re able to pivot very quickly based on changing tastes and niches of opportunity in specific product segments,” he said.

Showcase at Tsawwassen Mills in Delta, BC (December 2021). Photo: Lee Rivett.
Showcase at Tsawwassen Mills in Delta, BC. Photo: Lee Rivett.

“We also have trained our customers over the years to expect the unexpected. They come in looking for what’s new. So you have this constant appetite for discovery. When people walk into our stores they see something they may have seen on social media last night or just heard a celebrity talking about and for them to have the instant gratification of having that product on the shelf and usually a product that they cannot find elsewhere easily is really compelling.

“I think that is one of the reasons why the concept has been successful even through very volatile times over the past couple of years.”

The retailer also launched live shopping last year – a big initiative that has helped with its success by helping digitize the store experience.

Image: Showcase

He said Showcase is a data-driven, rapid retail company and its proprietary trendspotting technology uses sophisticated techniques, powered by algorithms and AI, to understand and identify trending products. 

The company’s agility allows them to be first and fastest to market: on average, each trend goes from concept to shelf in 53 days, with some of the top 10 items launching in as little as 16 days, he said.

“Showcase has invested heavily in a robust omnichannel strategy that will continue to deliver a seamless experience for customers to make shopping instant, relevant, and accessible. The company has introduced live online shopping events every 48 hours; same-day delivery service with DoorDash; mobile-first video advertising; and targeted personalized email campaigns to its two million+ loyalty Insider members,” says the retailer.

“Showcase carries all the latest TikTok-inspired trends that can’t be found elsewhere. The hashtag #ShowcaseMadeMeBuyIt currently has over 64 million views on TikTok, and Showcase is one of the most popular Canadian retailers on TikTok with 205,000 followers and growing. Other signature elements of the Showcase shopping experience include knowledgeable staff, time-sensitive promotions, flash discounts and product demos.”

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 is the Senior National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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