Clothing retailer Kit and Ace is closing stores in the U.S., Australia and the U.K. as the chain, launched in 2014 by Lululemon Athletica Inc. founder Chip Wilson and his family, shifts its focus to online sales and its nine Canadian outlets.
Vancouver-based Kit and Ace sells high-end clothing that is rooted in athletic wear but meant to be worn in any setting. The privately-owned company announced Wednesday that it cut head-office staff and shut down all stores outside Canada, and that an undisclosed number of jobs were eliminated.
In September, Kit and Ace planned to close one-quarter of its 60 outlets – some of which were short-term lease "pop-up" stores – in the next two years while continuing to look for others, according to a report at the time.
"We recognize the traditional world of bricks and mortar retailing is changing, which is why we're shifting strategies," said Mr. Wilson, founder of Hold It All Inc., the Vancouver-based holding company that owns Kit and Ace. "We believe in the business model for Kit and Ace. Going forward, we will be a stronger company."
"Fewer stores require fewer people. We remain deeply grateful for the creativity and commitment of those leaving the company and thank them for their valuable contribution," said Mr. Wilson, who founded the chain with his wife, Shannon Wilson, and son, JJ Wilson.
The once fast-growing luxury streetwear chain let go approximately 20 per cent of its 280 head-office employees last fall. The company had cut another 35 employees earlier in 2016.
David Ian Gray of retail consultancy Dig 360 in Vancouver said the Kit and Ace cutbacks were a setback for the Wilsons in their bid to take on Lululemon.
But Mr. Gray said Wednesday that he wasn't entirely surprised that the chain is winding up much of its store operations. Industry insiders pointed to quality issues with some of the chain's clothing that did not justify their high prices.