Los Angeles-based Alo Yoga has entered the Canadian market with its first storefront at 60 Bloor Street West in Toronto where a Gap store was formerly located. A second Alo store opens this fall at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre, and more are said to be coming to major cities across the country.
The 60 Bloor Street West Alo location is smaller than we had anticipated when we first reported on Alo’s entry into Canada in January. Alo occupies one level of the former Gap store, spanning about 7,000 square feet. The space boasts soaring ceiling heights facing Bloor Street, made possible by removing escalators from the former Gap store that led to a second level. The new Alo store itself features a white interior that is off-set with wood accents including fixtures and other design elements, as well as a contrasting black trim fixtures and artwork that create an airy and open space.
A 6,800 square foot Alo location is set to open at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre in November — the suburban mall Alo location will be nearly as large as the downtown flagship. Alo is said to be looking at opening stores in Edmonton at West Edmonton Mall and in downtown Montreal on Ste-Catherine Street, though nothing is confirmed in terms of finalized deals.
Given what is being said so far, a national store expansion for Alo in Canada is likely at play. Calgary’s CF Chinook Centre could be a target, and Vancouver is a likely bet for Alo, being Lululemon’s home territory.
Alo Yoga’s entry into Canada comes at a time of intense competition, with Lululemon last week reporting stronger than expected sales numbers from its global operations. And Alo Yoga is specifically looking to grab market share from Lululemon. Both brands boast a cult following, and both feature somewhat pricey wares with high margins that allow both to afford the cost of store expansions and expensive real estate. Lululemon has the advantage of almost 70 Canadian stores (a few of which are seeing upgrades) and years of customer loyalty. Alo’s prices appear slightly higher than Lululemon’s, though the price difference might not matter as much to a more monied target demographic. Some Canadians are already familiar with the brand from travel, and have become loyal (we had several excited local shoppers asking us questions prior to the store’s opening). Over the opening weekend in Toronto, the Bloor Street Alo store appeared very busy and shopping bags were seen throughout the neighbourhood.
In Toronto, Lululemon is building a 12,100 square foot three-level flagship on the same block as Alo on Bloor — Lululemon will occupy the northwest corner of Yonge and Bloor streets just 165 metres or 550 feet from Alo Yoga’s new flagship. The Lululemon store will open in early 2024 according to the brand.
In Edmonton, if Alo opens at West Edmonton Mall, it would compete with a highly productive Lululemon location. In 2013, the mall’s Lululemon store was said to be top in the company with sales exceeding $25 million annually in just 3,200 square feet. The store expanded to 6,200 square feet several years later and sales rose from there.
Other brands are getting into the yoga/athleisure space in Canada, though at a bit of a lower price point. Women’s brand Offline by Aerie recently entered Canada with its first store at West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton — a second location is set to open at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre and more are planned. It joins Gap-owned Athleta which is opening stores across Canada with a national expansion at play.
Some athleisure brands haven’t’ been so lucky in terms of success in Canada — Reitmans shut its Hyba yoga-themed stores in 2018 (the line can still be found in Reitmans stores) and Montreal-based Lole, once expecting to operate about 100 stores in Canada, has significantly shrunk in size since the pandemic. International brands including Lorna Jane were not successful here.
Back to Toronto, it’s remarkable that given the importance of the corner of Bloor and Bay Streets, that a retailer such as Alo only ended up taking just one floor. The opportunity presented for something larger and more dramatic. Birks CEO Jean Christoph Bedos in 2019 said that the Bloor and Bay intersection was the “the best retail location in all of Canada”, though as of late it may have seen better days. For years luxury multi-brand retailer Davids Footwear occupied the northwest corner of Bloor and Bay — now it’s home to unsightly optical retailer Hakim Optical which many are unhappy about occupying such an important corner (Hakim also has three stores within less than a kilometre of each other southward along Bay Street). A TD Bank occupies the southwest corner, and Bedos’ snazzy open-concept Birks jewellery store occupies the southeast corner within the Manulife Place complex.
The opening of Alo is still good news for Toronto’s Bloor Street, which is seeing new retailers opening and others signing leases. We’ll continue to report on the ongoing developments in Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville which is seeing something of a renaissance that will include the opening of several youthful and popular global brands with announcements to follow.
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.
Alo Yoga only has 19 stores in the United States currently — that’s up from 13 in January. In an exclusive article in WWD earlier this year, 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.
Gap must be a bit sore from not taking advantage of the location with their Athleta brand in this competitive athleisure proximity.
Mind you Alo is making the space look better then surely Atheleta wouldn’t have. The Gap backed retailer has somewhat of a confusing and jumbled offering due to a very stale Gap cookie cutter style merchandising scheme that hasn’t saved any of their nameplate brands in decades.
Lululemon really teaches us that this retail/ product segment needs an Ethos and ideology to support its clients lifestyles… it’s not simply just box to check as far as what product categories you offer. Sadly any brands vying for market share in this space without the aforementioned will be seen for the opportunistic profit seeking that it ultimately is without a connective mission statement.
I remember last year getting a list of prospective tenants for the space (there were bids/negotiations) and Athleta was one of them. A few other interesting brands were looking as well.