Vancouver-Based Brand DUER to Double Store Count in 2023 [CEO Interview]

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Vancouver-based apparel brand Duer plans to double its retail footprint in 2023 with the first of several storefronts to open in the Square One Shopping Centre in Mississauga in April and are close to confirming a new Toronto location slated to open later this spring.

The brand intends to double its store count from five to 10 this year.

“The Greater Toronto Area is Duer’s fastest growing Canadian market so we’re optimistic about how these stores will perform,” said Gary Lenett, Co-founder and CEO of Duer. “We see our new retail footprints as a way to connect people with the brand but also as community hubs where we can bring the Duer ethos to life.

“We have an ambitious growth trajectory and the market’s preference for sophisticated, comfortable clothing has propelled what’s possible. The momentum hasn’t changed our approach to growth, which is to scale profitably –  and we’re confident additional storefronts in Canada will support this goal.”   

Image: DUER
Gary Lenett

Lenett said the retailer, known for its comfort-driven denim and pants, has a business strategy to optimize brand awareness and interest in the Canadian retail landscape before further expansion into the U.S. and Europe.   

The company on its website says it is on a mission to eliminate plastic (oil-based fibres) from its apparel and currently 95 per cent of fibres used are plant-based or recycled.

The retailer has locations in Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Denver and Los Angeles. The Calgary, Denver and Los Angeles stores opened during the pandemic.

Duer began a few years ago with a popup store in its design office which was in Railtown in Vancouver in 2016. The first permanent store opened shortly after that in Gastown in Vancouver. 

The Square One location is slated to open April 1 followed by another location in Toronto in the spring, which the brand is close to confirming.

“We’re actively looking at Ottawa, Montreal, Edmonton and then perhaps another store in the Lower Mainland of Vancouver. The Toronto market is our greatest, fastest growing market right now. We think we could easily have three stores in the Greater Toronto Area,” said Lenett.

DUER at 491 Queen Street West (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

“We really believe that we had to have brick and mortar stores in order to get our brand across. We’re an omnichannel business. We want to meet customers where they want to shop. So if they want to shop online, great. We don’t see us as having 100 stores in Canada or even in North America. We’re not trying to be another lululemon in terms of our retail footprint.

“Some of our customers want to shop in store. They want the full assortment and some of them want to shop with our wholesale customers, other retailers like MEC. We sell to everybody from Holt Renfrew, Sporting Life, Harry Rosen, Simons. We believe that’s our secret sauce. We don’t really favour one channel over another. Obviously, our margins are a little bit better on our direct channels. But we really feel we have to be customer centric and modern and let people shop where they want to shop.

“We have to have sort of a minimum amount of outlets in order to achieve that. The major cities in Canada are no brainers for us. Our units are very profitable, so it makes sense.”

Image: DUER

When Lenett conceived of the idea for Duer, he went to an old friend of his in the business. He told him that if he was going to do this right – really build a brand properly – then he couldn’t go to third-party factories. Lenett wanted the company to have its own factory so the brand could be built out the right way.

“My partner who started this factory and is pretty much fully dedicated to Duer, he owns 50 per cent of the company. I basically gave away 50 per cent of the company because I thought that supply chain piece was so important to building a brand properly,” said Lenett.

“The brand was all about me wanting to simplify my life. I gave up my car for a bicycle. It was about me not being able to find anything that I would wear throughout my day. Duer is about making it simple for someone to find clothing that they can do everything they do in a day. I couldn’t get a trademark on doer so I called it Duer.”

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. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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