Nike did it. Apple did it. Now Canada Goose Inc. is joining the list of brands taking some control over the retail experience by opening their own stores, focused only on a single brand of merchandise.
Canada Goose is investing in its first branded stores later this year. A 4,500-square-foot location at Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto will be the first to open in October, followed by a 4,000-square-foot store in the SoHo neighbourhood of Manhattan, scheduled to open in November. The United States is the company's fastest-growing market, with sales up by 30 per cent last year; New York is its biggest market in the country.
"We're a global brand. … When we have these gathering places for Canada Goose fans, it builds and adds to the global halo of the brand," president and chief executive officer Dani Reiss said in an interview. "Wholesale is a very important part of our business, and it will continue to be important. But we are able to create the perfect experience and the perfect reflection of the Canada Goose brand."
The stores will incorporate Arctic imagery as well as photographs and stories of the adventurers known as "Goose people" who serve as spokespeople for the brand, all designed to communicate its authenticity among outdoor adventurers. Salespeople will be coached to tell customers about the product in much more detail than might occur in stores with a wider product scope.
Mr. Reiss sees the stores as a marketing investment.
"We're not looking to go to 150 stores tomorrow. We're not becoming a retailer, specifically," he said, though he said the company hopes to open more in the future. "It will be important to open stores in places where there are large concentrations of Canada Goose fans … there are lots of potential markets for that."
The stores will also help the brand to reinforce its longevity as a manufacturer in the space: Displays will include "heritage styles" taken from the company's archives to show customers what the products look like dating back to the inception of the company, which was founded in 1957. A selection of unworn "vintage" collections from more than 10 years ago will also be for sale exclusively in the physical stores.
As Canada Goose has been looking at expanding more internationally, the company that traditionally relied much more on word-of-mouth has invested more in marketing, including a four-minute video released last year and helmed by Hollywood director Paul Haggis. That video has since drawn roughly 1.6 million views on YouTube; the company says that including Facebook, the campaign website and paid placement such as preroll videos, it reached roughly 30 million views and increased Web search traffic for Canada Goose by 500 per cent.
Sometimes, the store and the brand are intertwined from the start – Canadian brands Lululemon Athletica Inc. and Roots Canada Ltd. are notable examples. Sometimes, however, products that have prominent wholesale businesses through other retailers decide to jump into the retail game to better market themselves. Canadian outerwear brand Mackage also has stores in SoHo and in the Carrefour Laval shopping centre in Laval, Que., and announced last month that it will open two new locations in Toronto, at the Yorkdale and Eaton Centre shopping malls, in "a retail environment that reflects our aesthetic."
"Those stores are often much more about marketing than retail sales," said Luke Sklar, a retail consultant and founder of market research company Sklar Wilton & Associates. "Look at Nespresso, and the M&M's store … that's not about revenue. That's about building the brand in Times Square. It's not like Gap wants to pay the rent at Bay and Bloor [in downtown Toronto]. They want to make a marketing statement. As much as people may claim that bricks are less important than clicks, when you see Amazon.com open stores, you know that the sensory experience matters."
Canada Goose already has its own e-commerce business as well.
"There's a lot of talk about e-commerce and 'omni-channel' [sales] and people are starting to recognize that bricks-and-mortar stores are the foundation of that," Mr. Reiss said. "The future is not just online or just bricks and mortar. It's a combination."