Rack Attack Continues Expansion in Canada, Adding Three New Stores and Acquiring Calgary Locations [Interview]

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Rack Attack, a leading retailer of car racks, bike racks, rooftop tents, overlanding, and other outdoor gear, continues to expand its footprint in Canada with the recent openings of three new stores in Kitchener, London and Winnipeg as well as acquiring two new stores in Calgary, previously owned by Racks Unlimited.

It’s part of the company’s plans to aggressively grow to more locations throughout the country and the United States.

The brand currently has 47 stores combined in both countries. 

Rack Attack in Winnipeg (Image: Rack Attack)
Rack Attack in Kitchener, Ontario (Image: Rack Attack)

Rack Attack began with one store in Vancouver in 1996. 

Alexander Welbers

Alexander Welbers, CEO of Rack Attack, said the company’s focus is to support customers in making the best gear choices for their outdoor adventures.

“From easy base racks to very complicated vehicle modifications or vehicle rigging to make them off road and overland ready,” he said.

“We really accelerated our expansion over the last four years and we will open our 47th store in June (just outside of Philadelphia).”

The Kitchener, London and Winnipeg stores opened over the last three months. 

“We’re coming out of a really intense growth expansion period since the beginning of 2022. We opened 26 stores since the beginning of 2022,” said Welbers. “We are really committed to growing the Canadian base and the U.S. base further. We have plans for more stores towards the end of this year and next year and beyond.

“On the Canadian side, we have 14 stores to date in BC, Ontario and Alberta. And we’re looking to further expand especially in the territories of BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and eventually Quebec. It’s hard to give you a number. We’ve opened three stores since the beginning of this year in Canada and we’re looking for roughly the same amount every year. Three to five stores to add to the Canadian market. There’s still some significant space that we’re not in now and we’re looking to find the right locations that are convenient for our communities to come to.

“When you see the new locations that we opened in Kitchener, London and Winnipeg, they’re in very good retail areas where people are familiar to go to . . . We need to find the location that has the right size for us but also allows some drive in bays, because we do all the service and vehicle modifications in our stores. We install everything we sell. That requires special retail locations where we can have vehicles in the stores.”

Rack Attack in London, Ontario (Image: Rack Attack)
Rack Attack Toronto (116 Laird Drive) Image: Rack Attack

Welbers said the company is in the process of re-branding the Calgary stores it acquired a few months ago. 

“It’s a great market for us. We’re really excited to be in the Calgary market finally,” he said.

The company opened in January 2022 Canada’s first location for a branded store for Swedish-based Thule, a global designer and manufacturer of roof racks and carriers, and is located in the Park Royal Shopping Centre in Vancouver. It is the second branded Thule store in North America with the first one in Denver, Colorado, which opened in June.

“We are still looking to expand further our Thule store base. Also in Canada. We’re looking for maybe one more location towards the end of this year but we haven’t really committed to a lease yet,” said Welbers.

“That’s one of the new store openings that we’re looking to as well. The three to five (new) stores per year in Canada could include one Thule store roughly every year. So we’re looking for locations there too. The Thule stores are really in high traffic areas like you see the Park Royal store. A lot of foot traffic. 

“The Rack Attack stores are in good retail destinations but they are bigger and they need drive-in bays to service and install and they need to be bigger to show all of the products that we have there. So the Rack Attack store is four to five times bigger than a Thule store.”

Image: Rack Attack
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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