Canadian retailer La Canadienne, in business for 35 years, recently opened its fourth store in the country as it strategically looks to expand its brand.
Nicholas Niro, President of La Canadienne, said what most people don’t realize is that the company is a distributor across North America.
“A lot of our business is actually in the US. We are distributed at Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Holt Renfrew and so on. Retail is really about reinforcing our brand image and allowing customers to see the full breadth of the La Canadienne collection,” he said.
“In our stores we carry multi-category footwear, outerwear, handbags. It’s the world of La Canadienne. Whereas in wholesale it’s really more footwear focused within that channel.
“In terms of stores, our goal really was to be in the three major cities of Canada, which we are now and we’ll continue to strategically look at locations that elevate our brand and allow us to speak to our customers locally.”
The brand started in 1987. It was privately owned until 2019 when it was acquired by a group of investors led by the Champlain Financial Corporation, a private equity firm based in Montreal.
“For the past 35 years, the business has mostly been wholesale and manufacturing here in Montreal. We actually manufacture a great majority of our product especially ladies’ boots and booties in Montreal,” said Niro. “The components are all Italian. The leathers. The suedes. The soles. But they’re actually made here in Montreal. That’s really the DNA, the history of the brand for the last 35 years.”
The company has four locations – two in Montreal, one in Toronto and one in Vancouver. The Vancouver store was the most recent one opening at 779 Burrard between highstreet Robson Street and luxury row Alberni Street.
International firm SAJO did the design-build for the new Vancouver store, which took several weeks to complete. SAJO has worked with numerous luxury brands on store construction and design strategy implementation.
Ben Labrecque, Managing Partner with Oakmont Real Estate Services Canada, which is handling the brand’s real estate needs, said ideal space for new stores is about 1,500 to 1,800 square feet.
“It’s really going to boil down to how do we reach the customer in the local markets while elevating the brand,” he said. “It’s not going to be a very shotgun approach or broad rollout, it’s going to be very strategic. Nordstrom exiting the market has probably accelerated some of those plans. With their exit this summer from the Canadian market, it creates an opportunity for customers that were finding the product through the wholesale channel to be redirected to La Canadienne’s brick & mortar channels. So we’re now creating an avenue for them to purchase.”
“We are primarily a wholesale business,” said Niro. “We’re expanding selectively in the major markets and right now our target is Toronto and Vancouver. It’s not to say that that may not expand further but today, that’s our focus,” he said. “We recently opened in Vancouver. We’re very happy about that.”
La Canadienne has held a retail presence in Montreal for 15 years with its two locations in Montreal’s downtown core and Outremont locations, and made its first step outside of Quebec with its first Toronto Yorkville location which opened in August 2021.
The success of the Toronto store motivated the brand to establish a retail presence in other key Canadian cities.
The 2,200-square-foot store is a new concept for the brand, bringing to life elements that make their brand unique yet always showcasing its product at the forefront.
“The concept includes a demonstration area to highlight CityDry™ product features along with a lounge to comfortably accommodate customers and their guests,” said the retailer.