When Aaron Spivak and Lior Ohayon started Hush back in 2018 with a desire to create a product that would help people sleep, there’s no way to predict the success that would follow in the four years, culminating with the first-ever pop-up at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre.
The ice-themed store opened on November 2 and features an experiential sensory Hush Room for visitors to immerse themselves and their senses and feel the cooling, calming and comforting sensation of Hush’s wide range of sleep products from its popular ‘Iced’ line.
“Yorkdale is one of the busiest and most loved malls in Toronto, so that’s the number one reason why we started here,” said Aaron Spivak, co-founder of Hush, in an interview from the opening day of Hush Yorkdale Pop-up. “We’re from Toronto, so I used to come here during the Rainforest Cafe days. We have a family of four brothers and my parents used to let us run free here every Saturday, so it’s nostalgic to be here.”
“It’s a big deal for us personally, for our brand and when you walk this mall – there’s not too many Canadian brands. Let alone their first ever store in the mall. We quickly realized that this isn’t just a first for us, but a first for Yorkdale to have a Canadian brand that’s only four years old. We started this on Yonge Street in Lior’s bedroom, literally four years ago and we never would have imagined that this would have been possible. So when this opportunity came about, it was like we had to take it. And during the two busiest months of the year for us, if there was ever a time to do it – this was it.”
The Hush pop-up at Yorkdale is located in a 2,970 SF storefront in the North East wing of the mall, in between Lauderach and Offline by Aerie. Location-wise, the brand will be able to get full-day walk-through traffic with Hudson’s Bay and Cheesecake Factory nearby.
“Most people don’t know that we have almost 400,000 customers that we’ve been able to build over the last four years and never has anyone been able to try our product and touch it until, literally today, this is the first opportunity.” said Lior Ohayon, Co-Founder of Hush.
“We’re primarily a DTC brand but the amount of people who said “can I just try a mattress or can I just sleep with a blanket, I know I can return it” but people don’t want to return things anymore. They want to just touch for a moment.
“We were thinking if we were ever going to do something like this, we’d want it to be experiential. We want it to be about trying the product. What we’ll see here today is a full experience. Everything is about having a moment with our product, whether it’s a touch or a three-minute activation in the Hush Room.”
In-store is a different marketing strategy than a D2C website ecommerce platform, which means that the brand has designed a solution.
“First thing is that the store acts like a giant billboard, and we’re making sure to provide experiences in-store to capture information. We’ll be using technology, like ipads.
“Similar to online, when you check something out and you leave, we can retarget or send an email. We’ve recreated that for in-store, so we’ll have a ton of staff and unlike any other mattress store, it’s not very sales-y. There’s not a lot of pressure to buy. It’s entirely comfortable.
“This is an experience. You might come in and you may be interested in something. You may not want to buy it right now, but we’re set up to build something for the customer that will be set up and we’ll just send it through via email. You can take your time and it’ll go through the typical D2C flow and it’ll feel way more natural. And if they want to buy it from their phone, they can and we’ll ship it.
“You might want to buy a blanket, mattress and a pillow, but you may want to take the pillow with you and we can ship the rest through our regular D2C channels. We’ve actually integrated both and the customer can choose how they want to interact. There’s no separation, where the people in-store are motivated by traditional ‘convert right now’ or send you home – it’s all seamless and you can choose how to experience Hush.”
“This is the first time that we’ve had all our products in one location, so no one has ever seen that.
“We’re launching two new products that no one has ever seen before. The first is the weighted knit blanket, a super aesthetic version of our current throw that people love. And the second product is a mattress. We launched our first mattress last fall, and we decided that we needed a variation in the market. This one is more affordable and accessible.
“We were able to keep everything that’s true to ‘Hush’ throughout the process. It’s still cold, still has hybrid technology and we actually created two proprietary components to the mattress that haven’t been seen in any bed yet. We’ve been working on this for more than a year, and typically when we launch a mattress, it’s only online. Now it’s in the store when people can come in and try it.”
The concept of the store will bring customers into an experiential retail format that is highly engaging and will bring the comforts of home into Yorkdale.
“The pop-up is ice-themed. We put out our best ice products. It’s what made our business. Took our business to the next level when we had a slow summer a few years ago. We asked our customer ‘why aren’t you buying our blanket?’ and it turned out that it was too hot. It was our original, the classic. Very warm in the summer, so we did a kickstarter and came out with the new fabric, the 2.0.
“So the whole store design is to come and try the ice, because people online are like ‘what does it feel like? You can show us a great photo of the blanket’ but this is the first time that they can come in and actually try it in person.”
The company launched a successful Kickstarter campaign in their first year that raised $1.5M+ in 30 days – making it the Top 10 most raised Canadian campaign ever.
In 2019, Hush also appeared on Canadian hit TV show Dragons’ Den and earned “Most Epic Pitch” of the season securing a bidding war between all six dragons. Spivak and Ohayon decided to accept the offer from Dragons Jim Treliving and Lane Merrifield, which was $400k for 10%.
After their time on the show, the brand expanded its product line to include mattresses and sleep accessories, furthering their mission of helping Canadians achieve a better night’s rest.
In 2021, Sleep Country acquired a 52% stake in Hush Blankets, which allowed the brand to expand into its next phase of growth and expand the Sleep Country’s sleep ecosystem.
“Hush is a powerful brand. This store is a physical manifestation in which their community can visit them, and interact with their product in a live brick and mortar environment,” shared Phil Besner, Senior Vice President of Business Development at Sleep Country Canada.
“This opportunity (bricks and mortar) will continue their customer acquisition strategy all the while engaging and delighting their loyal customer base with new and innovative product launches.
“It’s been a great partnership. For us, it was about acquiring a slightly younger demographic than Sleep Country typically sells to. And I think for Hush, by partnering with us, they got some back end support from our team. We’ve got involved with their purchasing, finance, HR, and also introduced them to some of our longstanding relationships with vendors and suppliers. We’ve stayed out of their way from a marketing perspective and let them work their magic.”
With the prevalence of D2C brands opening in brick & mortar locations across the Canadian retail landscape, it was asked of the Co-Founders if we would see more of this from the brand.
“It’s kinda like a trial,” Spivak shared. “Our motto has been ‘betting the farm since day one’. Since literally the first day, we’ve been sold out, innovated and created. When we launched our kickstarter in 2019, we literally put every single dollar we had into the business into creating this fabric. No proof that anyone would even buy it and it did incredible. And we did it again when we launched 2.0 and again when we expanded into our own warehouse. So this kinda feels just like that. When we were walking in, Lior said “how many more moments like this are we going to have? It seems like every year we keep creating more. It’s so stressful, there’s anxiety in it….”
“The answer is Yes,” added Ohayon.
“When it goes the way we planned, we’ve been very fortunate that when we bet the farm, it works out. We’d love to see more of these. This is just the concept. When we prove the concept, which we will, then we’ll hopefully expand. We like the malls too, as we hear people walking by and talking about the brand. It’s more of a recollection for them versus a destination standalone store where you’ll have to drive out to it.
“When it rains or snows, you don’t want to walk the street. But you can park in the mall, especially at Yorkdale, where they have underground parking and it’s nice.
Additional features to the location include:
- On-site embroidery service to personalize purchased products
- Reclining chairs for testing the weighted blankets
- Ice cube machine to demonstrate graphite material
- Bringing the DTC brand to life with the sensory experience, Hush Room, giving customers the ability to touch and feel all Hush products.
The Hush Pop-up is open now through the holiday season at Yorkdale Shopping Centre.