Retailer KIT + ACE, under new ownership and leadership, has ventured into Taobao, a Chinese online shopping platform owned by Alibaba, as the brand continues to make plans for expanding its physical footprint in Canada.
“Our customers online are telling us we are top of mind,” said Lui, KIT + ACE’s CEO. “Our store year-over-year sales are double digit comps. So very, very positive top line. Our customers love our product and love our brand.
“Our online is telling us that customers from the country – even from the UK and Australia and the U.S. – are definitely buying our product and repeating and returning.”
KIT + ACE currently has four locations – Gastown in Vancouver; Mount Royal Village in Calgary; Oakville, Ontario; and Queen St in downtown Toronto. The stores range in size from 2,500 square feet to 4,000 square feet.
“We just introduced about two months ago live streaming to China on the Taobao app,” said Lui. “It’s performing really well. The Chinese guests and consumers are embracing our product. We broadcast five days a week right now. We do live selling.
“We have a Key Opinion Leader (KOL). They’re based here in Vancouver and once a week they broadcast live in our store and then other days they broadcast live in their showroom in their office. She basically talks for a good five hours a day on camera, live streamed directly into China. Just selling and trying on product in front of the camera. Selling through camera. It’s an interesting process because there’s two people helping her on live and behind the scenes in China there’s a customer service team going through customer service, questions, processing of orders and answering questions. So it does take a cast. It takes a team to orchestrate this live selling session. It’s pretty amazing.”
Lui said the use of the shopping platform is intended to expand its brand presence to China where live stream shopping is very popular.
As former CEO of Korite, a brand that focused on ammolite gemstones and jewelry, he had experience bringing that brand to live streaming in the past.
“It’s also a good way to test a new market. Use their mechanism of shopping, use their preference of shopping, and try out a new market without opening physical stores,” said Lui. “So online capability, live streaming capability has allowed us to test a new market which we now know China is receptive to our product,” he said.
By November 1, KIT + ACE will be opening a pop-up at CF Toronto Eaton Centre and then around the same time it’s going to open another pop-up for the holiday season in CF Market Mall in Calgary, which will be then closed for renovation to open as a permanent store.
“At Eaton Centre, we’re doing the same thing. We’re opening it initially as a pop-up with a view for a long-term lease there,” explained Lui.
He said the retailer has plans to open on West 4th Avenue in Vancouver in Spring 2024 as a permanent and flagship location.
“We aim to finish 2024 with up to ten stores – an additional six stores to our current portfolio,” added Lui.
“We’ve got a full-court press here,” said Lui.
Job postings are available on the KIT + ACE Career Portal.
When Unity Brands announced it had acquired KIT + ACE, Mimran said:
“KIT + 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.
“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.
“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.”