The Future of Kit and Ace is Bright: Interviews with Unity Brands’ Joe Mimran and David Lui

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Unity Brands Inc., owned by well-known Canadian entrepreneur Joe Mimran, David Lui and Frank Rocchetti, have big plans to grow retailer Kit and Ace after recently acquiring the brand.

“Kit and Ace has first of all really, really strong top of mind awareness which was built up over the years. Even though the brand has only been in the market eight years. But I think the brand has a much bigger image than it has footprint, certainly,” said Mimran.

Joseph Mimran

“I loved that it was direct to consumer which I’m obviously familiar with a direct to consumer model. And I still believe in the direct to consumer model and it had a very strong consumer franchise. A franchise of consumers that are very homogeneous, particularly on the men’s side, and because of that I believe that the positioning is very, very clear for the brand. 

David Lui

“And it’s not too often that you can get a brand, buy a business, where the customer is clear as to who that customer profile is and what the ethos of the brand is all about. To me, and to Frank and to David, we felt that with a little bit of tweaking we could really continue to grow this brand. That’s what we found exciting.

“This is in my wheelhouse from a design standpoint. So we’ve taken over the design and development side of the business and I think we can add a lot to this already very, very good base of business.”

Mimran is a pioneer in the fashion industry, having founded or co-founded esteemed brands such as Club Monaco, Joe Fresh, Caban, Pink Tartan, Gry Mattr, and Rise Little Earthling. He has been honoured with numerous industry awards, including the American Marketing Association’s Marketing Hall of Legends award, Canadian Style Award, and the lifetime achievement award by the Design Exchange.

Under the new ownership structure, Lui assumed the role of CEO, overseeing the organization’s growth, operations, marketing, e-commerce, finance, and logistics from the head office in Vancouver. Meanwhile, product design and development has relocated to Toronto, managed by Mimran’s creative design centre. Working alongside the new owners, George Tsogas, the previous owner, remains with the company, ensuring a seamless transition and continued operational excellence. Tsogas assumed the role of Chief Operating Officer.

Kit and Ace currently has four stores – Queen Street in Toronto; in Oakville, Ontario; Mount Royal Village in Calgary; and Gastown in Vancouver. A significant part of the business is ecommerce, transacting throughout the world online.

Kit and Ace in Gastown within downtown Vancouver (Photo: Lee Rivett)

Mimran said Unity Brands didn’t buy Kit and Ace to keep it where it is.

“With Joe and Frank’s exceptional track record in the retail fashion industry and George’s invaluable operational expertise, we have assembled a winning combination that will elevate Kit and Ace’s distinctive identity, foster creativity, and deliver unparalleled experiences for our guests,” said Lui.

“Product is moving to Toronto under (Mimran’s) design centre in Toronto. Here in Vancouver we’re strengthening the organization through a bit of a change of putting people in the right roles, giving people the right opportunities, also looking at operating efficiencies within the business. So foundationally that’s a lot of work being done. 

“In the meantime, we have our eyes on growth but cautious, controlled growth, because of the environment that we’re in but definitely consumers love the brand, consumers shop the brand. Over 60 per cent of our customer base is on a repeated basis, pre and during the pandemic, they still shop with us. So with that being said we are planning to open two more stores by the end of this year and we hope that with the right real estate, the right opportunities, we can open another two to four stores next year.”

Kit and Ace Queen Street (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Lui said the company is aiming to open a flagship in Vancouver this year for the homegrown brand. The second store would be either in Toronto or in Calgary.

Lui has 25 years’ experience as a senior executive retailer on global brands including: ESPRIT, The North West Company, Mark’s, SportChek, and KORITE. His strong background in marketing, digital and retail operations has led to the success of multiple global award-winning marketing campaigns and was recognized as the CEO of one of the Fastest Growing Companies in Canada. Lui won the prestigious BDC Young Entrepreneur Award and was named one of Business in Vancouver’s Forty under 40. Most recently, he was ranked 11th in the Global CEO Awards.

“We’re very, very excited. It’s hard to find exciting stories when it comes to physical retail because physical retail has gotten such a bad knock over the past three years. Certainly coming out of COVID it’s changed a little bit but I would say the landscape is still pretty troubled but we’re very confident. We’re quite optimistic about our chances of really developing a great brand here and taking it outside of Canada,” said Mimran.

Rocchetti boasts an extensive retail background, having held senior merchant roles at Sears and Loblaws, and overseeing captive apparel development for Coles Australia and Kroger US. Most recently, Rocchetti, alongside Mimran, has been instrumental in the transformation of the Canadian brand, Tilley.

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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