Esprit Looks to Return to Canada with Stores

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Fashion brand Esprit will again be reportedly opening stores in Canada after shutting all stores in North America about a decade ago. A report this week in WWD [paywalled] says that the company has a new CEO and has opened a pop-up in Los Angeles ahead of a store expansion that will include Canada. 

CEO William Pak, who has been leading Esprit since March of this year, told WWD that Esprit would look to open a store in Vancouver as well as possibly as many as two in Toronto. No further details were given in terms of locations. 

Esprit shut its 93 stores in North America in 2012 after losing money, instead focusing on Asia and Europe for its business. And in 2016, a partnership with Montreal-based Freemark Apparel Brands saw an Esprit store open at West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton — there had been plans to grow the business but it didn’t end up happening.

A North American expansion is ramping up with a colourful pop-up store in Los Angeles. Esprit’s clothing styles displayed include items inspired by a collection of images from over the years from the company’s archives. Esprit was founded in California in 1968, and retails clothing for men, women and children. 

Image from the fall/winter Esprit campaign. Photo: Esprit

Esprit has 167 stores in Europe, with 61 of those in Germany. In 2020 the brand shut its stores in Asia and is now returning by opening several pop-ups. Esprit moved its headquarters to Hong Kong last year from Germany, though much of the decision making is still made in Germany. 

The brand had been one of the most recognizable in the world, seeing sales of over $100 million in the late 1970s. Esprit struggled in recent years and lost over a billion dollars over five years before becoming profitable last year. North Point Talent Ltd., Esprit’s largest shareholder, is looking to turn the company around with CEO William Pak, who is a lawyer from Canada and who worked in private equity before joining Esprit. 

Esprit will compete with various casual fashion retailers in Canada, though some such as The Gap have been closing stores. Growing market share will be a bit of an uphill battle for Esprit at least initially, though it has brand awareness in Canada given its presence here a decade ago. Younger consumers may have been acquainted or reacquainted with the brand given the gap in time in terms of having a presence here.

We’ll follow up on this story when we learn more about the Canadian expansion.  

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson
Located in Toronto, Craig is the Publisher & CEO of Retail Insider Media Ltd. He is also a retail analyst and consultant, Advisor at the University of Alberta School Centre for Cities and Communities in Edmonton, former lawyer and a public speaker. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for over 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees.

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