After twenty years of being absent in the Quebec market, Tip Top, a Toronto-based menswear suit and casual fashion retailer, will be expanding into Quebec this year and is looking to renovate existing store locations in Canada.
“Right now, we are well down the road in our planning and are in the execution stage of our return in Quebec. So we are finalizing some lease agreements, and in the second half of this year, we will be opening a few stores in Montreal and Quebec City using our new small footprint store formats such as our new stores in Vaughan Mills and Markville,” says Lance Itkoff, the President and CEO of Grafton Apparel which owns Tip Top.
Although the new locations are not confirmed yet, Itkoff said consumers should expect to see between two to four stores opening in Quebec in the second half of this year and is excited as he believes they will succeed this time as they are offering something that is different from other retailers in Quebec.
“We believe we have a competitive advantage over anyone else in Canada and we have something that is unique and different and something that is not currently being offered in Quebec, so we believe that it will resonate extremely well. We will open two to four stores to make sure we do it right, and to ensure it resonates with the customers in Quebec as the long term opportunity for us is to have around twenty stores in Quebec. I am confident that what we are doing now – nobody else is doing in Quebec.”
With the new language law in Quebec, Bill 96, Itkoff says they want to serve the customers in Quebec the way they want it and are happy to be entering into the province as the brand can start off fresh and meet all the new regulations from the start.
In addition to expanding into the Quebec market, Itkoff says he is always looking for opportunities to expand more into Canada and fill in the markets where they are not currently and other areas such as the Greater Toronto Areas and Vancouver. As Itkoff does not have any stores opening right now or has set a goal to open an amount of stores this year – he rather will take opportunities as they come.
“We are not going to open stores unless it is absolutely the right location. We don’t put a number on the board with a set amount of stores, we are going to open up as many stores as we get the right opportunities in the right malls, the right space, and the right location in the mall. And as we are being shown those opportunities, we are in a great position to capitalise on it.”
As Tip Top looks for expansion opportunities, Itkoff says since the small format stores are working for the brand, they will keep moving forward with the new formats of around 2,200 square feet instead of 3,500 square feet as they look for future stores. Any new locations will be announced once they are finalized.
New Renovations Coming Soon
Tip Top will be renovating twelve of its current locations this upcoming Spring. Going back to 2019, Tip Top opened its new prototype store with a redesigned experience for consumers and will focus on the new format as they renovate the twelve stores. The new formats will be designed to be event solution focused where men can find a variety of shirt colours, ties, and suits for any moment in their lives such as graduations or weddings – the “perfect solutions for events where people can find hundreds of different solutions that they could do to individualize their look.”
In the older formats, Itkoff says customers would have seen dark walls, dark ceilings, and dark fixtures.
“So in a lot of our stores in the older format you will see grey flooring, grey tables, grey slated walks and in our windows, you would have seen grey wall colours. And then on top of that, we put grey charcoal, black, and navy type suits – leading to a somber experience. In the new promotype, it is all about this light, bright, airy, accessible, and happy store experience.”
Itkoff says for the new formats, all the fixtures will not be the “heavy, clunky, chunky fixtures” they have had before, it will be brighter and more welcoming to consumers. The new concept was in conjunction with Shikatani Lacroix, a design firm in Toronto and started rolling out in 2019 and is planning on renovating twelve more this Spring with more on the way.
In addition to renovating new store locations, Itkoff said they have also revamped its ecommerce platforms, its IT infrastructure with a new ERP and POS systems, and have a new Shopify platform where they can manage the inventory better for consumers where it allows access to all its inventory within the 125 stores across the country.
“At the end of the pandemic, we took a good hard look at what we felt the future was going to be for the brand and what assortments the brand will have. And we turned it on its head and we said we are all about outfitting that guy for his special day, that special moment, or that special event in his life – perfect moments and perfectly dressed. We changed everything about the merchandise and anchored the event shop and it worked phenomenally.”