The 2,500 square foot store is designed to compliment the existing OAK locations in Ottawa and Montreal, while bringing the customer experience that is required from a street with established brands.
“OAK took quite a long time to fully develop a concept & design that would differ from your typical ‘sneaker resell shop'”, shared Franco Benalia, one of the brand’s founders. “With its main goal to open a Flagship location and disassociate from the generic ‘sneaker resell shop’, OAK had to reassess what product, design & service it would offer its customers.”
The brand has existing locations in Montreal, Ottawa and Laval.
“In contrast, the new Toronto Flagship location offers a much wider range of products that have been requested over the last few years. By incorporating products from some of the best luxury houses such as Louis Vuitton, Goyard, Gallery Dept, Dior & many more, OAK is able to attract a wider audience that may not be sneaker enthusiasts but are looking for a more elevated fashion experience.
“Furthermore the experience OAK offers its customers when shopping is unlike your typical retailers. Our emphasis on styling and sourcing the best products for our customers is another aspect that makes our store unique. Our amazing staff provide a white glove experience to each of our customers, helping them find the best sneakers to pair with an outfit or styling them from head to toe. This gives our Queen ST customer an experience similar to some of the biggest retailers in the world.”
The brick & mortar store experience for brands looking to stay competitive has adapted through lessons learned from competition within the luxury retail space.
“When launching our Flagship location the experience we wanted to offer our customers was an important aspect of the build. Firstly, when you come to OAK you will be greeted by one of our staff who specialize in product knowledge and will give you a one on one tour of the stores different departments that highlights the brands we carry. In addition they will refer you to products that compliment your needs and provide several options to make the customers decision easier. With access to our Luxurious fitting room the customer will be able to style & try on the options proposed so they can visualize themselves in the fit before finalizing their checkout experience.
When you walk into the Flagship location, there is a prominent sign on the outside that creates a sense of belonging, community and intrigue.
“The slogan ‘If You Know You Know’ is a homage to the exclusive products we carry. Our Toronto Flagship location carries some of the rarest archived products from some of the biggest fashion houses in history. Most of them have over 50+ years of iconic products, designs & materials.
“Only Fashion & Sneaker enthusiasts who study the history of these brands will truly know the value of each item and how hard it is to come by.”
Benalia shared that the lessons learned from the Toronto Queen Street build was always on the top of mind throughout the process, including hiring.
“Opening a store on Queen ST West requires much more preparation than any other retail locations. Since Queen ST W is a very coveted retail location in Toronto, it attracts the best retailers. This makes the standards for a successful retail store much higher in all aspects.
“As an example, the design/concept of the store must be unique and elevated, the staff that is hired must be well educated on the exclusive product and know how to provide a white glove experience to all customers. While a lot of these aspects can go unnoticed in other locations, Queen ST West has high foot traffic with quality clients that pay attention to all of the details.
“A lot of the traffic on Queen ST West are tourists that are looking for exciting cool concepts while shopping so it is important to give them the full One of A Kind experience in one single visit.”
The neighbourhood has a number of established competitors on the block, including Groovy Shoes. The shoe retailer will be opening at The Well, joining adidas in taking a concept from Queen Street to the new development at Front and Spadina.
With the amount of retailers in the neighbourhood that have footwear and streetwear as part of their product assortment, Benalia is bringing OAK onto the street at time that the area will be getting set to deal with challenges with the new Ontario Line construction.
“It’s definitely going to attract a lot more sneakerheads to the street. With that being said OAK’s product range is extremely diverse offering luxury goods, streetwear & sought after sneakers that Customers won’t be able to find elsewhere on Queen Street let alone Canada. This will also attract many fashion enthusiasts to the street seeking rare and archived products.”