Carriage Trade, an upscale women’s retailer in Toronto, is celebrating its 60th anniversary, is planning to expand, updating its existing store, and enhancing its social media presence.
“Being in business for 60 years gives us a lot of credibility. We are definitely expanding and growing, which is very exciting for us. We are always looking for new brands and we are constantly pivoting, almost monthly, and we are just really listening to our customers’ needs. People can shop anywhere, there is a lot of merchandise out there, but I think they come to us because of our credibility and they trust us,” says Nora Mirza, the owner of Carriage Trade since 1994.
Going into 2024, Carriage Trade is looking at expanding and renovating its existing store location in Toronto and is hoping to double its square footage, allowing more room for showcasing new brands and inventory.
“It is getting really tight right now, so hopefully in 2024 we will be able to expand and double our space. We are also working on a new website and rebranding – but still maintaining the Carriage Trade name, because to find a name that has been around and has such a long legacy is not easy.”
Improving its online presence
Mirza says updating the website will improve consumers’ online shopping experience. Mirza is also planning to grow the brand’s online presence through social media and will look into pop-up shops and events in new regions to test new markets. As the store is located in the West End of Toronto, social media has been a huge factor in attracting new consumers.
“We are not downtown – so it’s a bit trickier for us. Social media has been huge for us, as far as a real marketing tool to reach new clients and influencers. So social media and our website has really given us an advantage to reach more clients.”
The main goal right now is to increase its footprint, enhance its digital presence, and continue introducing clients to new fashion trends and brands.
“As far as having multiple stores, I think growing my online presence and working on pop-ups and events is probably for now where I want to go. All of our staff really flow well together, work as a team, and we are pretty much a family, so to replicate that for the future, I don’t know as it’s not easy.”
With having one store, Carriage Trade is able to build relationships with consumers, know what they are looking for, and know what they bought previously – giving the team the chance to connect with each customer.
“We can reach out and say ‘yes, this blouse is perfect for that skirt you purchased last year,’ so building relationships is really important. We also focus on quality as it is not fast fashion, it is one of a kind. Consumers trust the quality, so we are just continuing to expand and build these long-term relationships.”
Celebrating 60 Years
To celebrate, Mirza said they gathered women who have been supporting them throughout the decades and did a generational photoshoot.
“We had done photoshoots with the family together to commemorate and then we gifted portraits to them as a thank you. This idea came about because I had one of my really good customers shopping and she brought her mother, her grandmother, and her daughter – it was four generations and I thought it was incredible. It was so nice to see all the different generations together and wearing our clothing.”
Carriage Trade also partnered with two charities: HART, an anti-trafficking charity where they support survivors, and Rethink Breast Cancer in Toronto. The brand collaborated with two Toronto artists: Nessa Lilly and Sophie Brussaux for exclusive and limited shirts and scarfs.
“During our campaign, we had all these clients wearing these shirts and showcasing the scarf – it was a lot of fun and was a nice way to give back to women who have supported us all these years. 100 percent of the proceeds of the shirts and scarves were donated to these two charities.”
Outside of Carriage Trade, people walking by will also notice huge window displays of generations of women wearing different styles that were relevant back in the day and current trends. “We have a massive decal that covers three quarters of the window, and it is interesting because we have seen customers stop by and just really make comments because it really makes a statement for women and how far we have come; from the 60s to where we are today. It really has resonated with a lot of our female clients.”
Carriage Trade was founded in 1963 by two sisters and opened the same day John F Kennedy was shot. Mirza says when she bought it about 30 years ago, she thought about changing the name. Eventually one of the sisters left and the brand closed and Mirza took the chance and bought it.
“The clientele had aged with the store and I had thought about changing the name, but I was on the phone with Bell Canada and someone would tell me about their story about shopping at Carriage Trade – so it has quite the legacy because it has been around for so long.