Vancouver always made for a sensible choice for Monos to launch its first bricks and mortar store. The city is where the upscale travel and lifestyle brand got its start as an ecommerce retailer.
Monos launched its online store in 2019, offering premium suitcases, bags, and accessories. After a successful test pop-up in Toronto late in 2022, Monos recently opened the first permanent location on West 4th Ave in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood.
Choosing West 4th for its first shop shouldn’t come as a surprise, says the company, as well as other local retail experts and stakeholders who suggest West 4th is emerging not only as one of Vancouver’s top retail districts, but also one of the most successful, unique shopping streets in all of the country.
“Vancouver has a special place in our hearts,” said Hubert Chan, Monos co-founder and chief creative officer. The company was born here and so was he, Chan told Retail Insider in an interview.
“Vancouver’s retail scene is really thriving (and) West 4th has sort of emerged as a premier shopping destination not just in the city, but you know, in the country. We’re just really proud to be a part of that.”
The new shop opened July 7 at 2131 West 4th. It’s a 1,900-square-foot space the company says is “intentionally designed to transport guests through a customer journey using key design aspects”.
Through the floor-to-ceiling glass exterior, guests will see a grand archway, leading them to a space to explore Monos’ colour collection, core pieces and travel accessories. The brand planning to open additional stores outside of B.C. within the next several years.
“We did the Adidas Terrex deal, “Moriarty told Retail Insider, referring to the hiking and trail running and outdoor apparel spinoff brand of the German sports giant. “This was their first (store) in North America. They hand selected West 4th…as their first market to go into in North America. That’s pretty incredible.”
Moriarty said Vancouver’s top shopping experience has long been associated with Robson Street in the downtown core. Indeed, Cushman and Wakefield listed Robson as the 14th most expensive place to lease retail space in the Americas in the firm’s 2022 Main Streets Across the World report.
But times, clientele and shopping patterns are changing and West 4th has emerged as one of the most attractive districts for land owners, brands and customers, Moriarty said. “Part of the success of it is the fact that it has a little of everything… We could spend the whole day there.”
Compact district with a little of everything, near the beach
A compact shopping district of roughly four-six blocks, and just a short walk to Kits beach, West 4th has a convenient blend of coffee shops, restaurants, salons, fitness and wellness businesses, mixed with local, national and international fashion and athletic apparel retailers that makes it one of a kind in the country, Moriarty said.
It’s bright, pedestrian-friendly and pleasant. Among Monos’ high-profile neighbours are Lululemon, Patagonia, Reigning Champ and Mejuri.
Moriarty said shoppers should expect more announcements soon by other new or leading retailers setting up shop in the neighbourhood, although he declined to get specific due to private negotiations.
“We are seeing tenants that blow my mind a little bit, reach out to us and say, ‘we want to be in Vancouver’, and ‘we want to be on West 4th’,” Moriarty said. “Historically, it was always ‘we want to be downtown’.”
There’s room for both shopping districts, but many of the ‘digital native’ retailers seeking a younger demographic are preoccupied with West 4th.
Chan from Monos is also noticing a “shift in power” from Robson St. and the downtown upscale market to West 4th. “It’s really become the place to be… not just as an established brand, but for new and emerging brands as well,” he said. The street has become “perhaps the most iconic and quintessential Vancouver neighborhood” mixing affluent older shoppers with young spenders that flock to the beaches, bars and restaurants in the area.
Chan adds Aesop and Allbirds to the list of neighbours that are helping to create a critical mass in the area. Having “hometown hero” Lululemon also helps, he added.
Arc’teryx has deep roots on West 4th
Another hometown hero that has long had a presence of West 4th is outdoor gear and apparel maker Arc-teryx, which opened its first Kitsilano retail store on West 4th in 2013. It relocated to a 4,500-square-foot new location on the same street last November.
“West 4th is an iconic retail location for Vancouver, with an amazing community presence,” said Delaney Schweitzer, chief commercial officer with Arc-teryx. “Arc’teryx is deeply rooted in the B.C. Coast Mountains, with our headquarters located just over the water in North Vancouver, and we’ve always had a strong connection with Kitsilano’s outdoor community.”
Arc’teryx’s Kitsilano store was their third brand store in all of North America. “When we outgrew our original Kitsilano store, we couldn’t imagine a better location to open our very first pinnacle store than West 4th: our original Vancouver home.”
There’s something unique about the mix of West 4th retailers and shoppers, Schweitzer said. “The local community is welcoming, passionate about the outdoors and loyal to the brands they love. The area itself is incredibly walkable, with a wide array of retail locations interspersed with great restaurants, coffee shops and fitness studios, so we see a lot of foot traffic in our store. From our West 4th location, you’re just a few blocks from the beach and a great view of the North Shore mountains, so it’s the perfect location to plan your next adventure in the great outdoors.”
More demand means higher lease rates
More attention and more business means landlords are receiving a premium from their retail tenants in the area. Moriarty estimates rents are up 50%-60% over the past five years and 10%-15% in just the last 12 months in the length of West 4th from roughly Balsam to Burrard.
“I don’t personally see a stop to that (demand),” he said. “We have spaces where we don’t even put up a sign and we already have three or four offers, which is testament to the marketplace.”
Current net lease rates for the 2200 block of the street are $120-$135 per square foot, according to Moriarty. While expensive locally, West 4th still remains attractive when compared to similar international locations.
Long-term development projects spell growth for the area
Meanwhile, work continues on the Broadway Subway — an expansion of Vancouver’s SkyTrain network that will include a terminus stop at Arbutus and Broadway, just a short walk from the core of West 4th. That will make it easier for visitors and shoppers from around the region to access the neighbourhood when the line opens in 2026.
Moriarty also pointed out that a couple of massive mixed-use residential projects are also in the planning stages in the area that will eventually boost the local shopping population including at the First Nations-led Jericho Lands, where MST Development Corporation has a plan to build 13,000 homes on a 36-hectare master-plan site near the western end of West 4th.
Near the southern end of the Burrard Street bridge on False Creek, Squamish Nation is developing Sen̓áḵw, an 11-tower project built on Nation land. Work is already underway with the development expected to bring 6,000 new rental homes and 1,200 affordable homes to the area by 2027 — all within walking distance of West 4th.
The short-term prospects for West 4th are already incredible and the long-term prospects are also bright, Moriarty said. “Demand isn’t going anywhere. I think it’s going to get stronger and stronger.”