Candy Department Store Concept IT’SUGAR Expands into Canada with Plans for Multiple Locations [Interview]

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It’s candy store heaven and US-based candy retailer IT’SUGAR has launched its presence in Canada with a new store which has opened in West Edmonton Mall.

The company has plans to open several more Canadian locations in the next few years.

Jonathan Schwartz

Jonathan Schwartz, Vice President of Real Estate and Business Development for the brand, said the retailer brings brands to life. 

“We have a number of the world’s largest and most famous candy brands around the country and internationally that we sell within our location,” he said. “We’re really a humorous escape. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We want to make people have fun and kind of blend ourselves between retail and entertainment or retailtainment.

“We have a wide selection of everyone’s favourite candy. We have licensed products and non-edible products, hats and T-shirts and pillows and mugs and flip flops and everything else. And we have our own private label products which we use to kind of tell our story, share our humour and no nutritional value added and your diet starts tomorrow. That’s what makes us unique and different and that’s our personality.”

IT’SUGAR West Edmonton Mall (Image: IT’SUGAR)

The brand was established in 2007 by Jeff Rubin who is the company’s current CEO. Currently, there are just over 100 locations.

“The concept has really evolved. Our latest prototype is centered around a candy department store model. So we have three different store types and they range in different square footages,” explained Schwartz.

“We’ve got a Sugar Rush at 3,000 feet, a Sugar High at 5,000 square feet and then a Sugar Daddy which is larger than 10,000 square feet. The store in West Edmonton Mall would be a Sugar High store which is really kind of the internal name that we call it. But it brings in the vast majority of the brands that we would sell in one of our flagship locations. 

“And the candy department store concept really started when we opened up our American Dream (Mall) store which was in 2019.”

The West Edmonton Mall location is the retailer’s first outside of the US.

“We’ve been wanting to expand to Canada for some time now. So this is a great first entry point into the market. We have stores with Triple Five, the owner of the West Edmonton Mall. They also own Mall of America and American Dream so we have stores in both of those properties. This made kind of a natural fit for us to go into West Edmonton Mall. I’m Canadian. I’m very excited about us expanding into the Canadian market,” said Schwartz, who was born in Montreal.

“This will really be the starting point and a launching pad for us to add a number of other locations throughout the country. I think we’d love to open five to 10 over the next several years. Probably over the next five or six years. So we’re looking at all the major markets throughout Canada. Our eyes are really focused right now on Toronto. We’ve got a number of locations that we’re looking at. So we’ll be coming soon to Toronto.”

Schwartz said that only about 20 per cent of its portfolio is in malls.

“In the rest of our portfolio we look for tourist destination markets. High footfall. We are an impulsive purchase, an impulsive brand. We want to be where people are on vacation or also at lifestyle centres, urban on street locations, we do really well next to sports arenas and concert venues and convention centres,” he said.

“It’s a sense of escapism. We want to create a fun place for people to come and enjoy their favourite brand. Our customer is anyone who has teeth and that’s our target demographic. We’re not just a kid’s candy store. We’ve got a lot of nostalgic candies that were everyone’s favourite when they were a child. It’s really a fun place to explore and try new things and have a laugh. We see people of all ages in our stores, all walks of life.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
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 News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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