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openroad hyundai boundary dealership in vancouver, bc photo: hyundai canada via facebook

By Mario Toneguzzi

The Canadian automotive industry has been struggling for more than a year but Hyundai Canada has been bucking the trend posting 12 consecutive months of outpacing the market in sales.



The company says it’s Canada’s fastest-growing mainstream automaker in 2019 with retail sales up 11.3 per cent, the highest among mainstream brands and it is the only manufacturer to outperform the Canadian auto industry for 12 consecutive months while the market just recorded its 15th consecutive month of decline.

Don Romano, President and CEO of Hyundai Auto Canada Corp. said Hyundai’s positive sales performance is sustained by key business directives, including a revamped marketing strategy and successful new product launches.

photo: hyundai canada via facebook

photo: hyundai canada via facebook

photo: hyundai canada via facebook

“We made a number of difficult but sound changes across our business over the last several years. It’s rewarding to see that these changes coupled with exciting new products and a highly engaged dealer body are now resulting in industry-leading sales growth,” said Romano. “We’re continuing to see great success, and we’re just getting started. The best is still ahead.



“We’re the fastest growing brand in Canada right now. We’re up. There’s only three manufacturers that are up. Everybody else is down. The Canadian market has been down for 15 consecutive months. It’s been down all year. But we’re growing. Our sister company Kia is growing. We’re on a roll . . . We’re just starting. Honestly our upward trend is just the beginning. We are bringing out a whole series of new products. A lot of focus on the environment. We have a lot more electric vehicles coming out.”

Romano said the company has about 130,000 to 140,000 sales a year in Canada. In May, Hyundai had sales of 14,156 units, a 1.4 per cent increase compared to the same month in 2018. So far in 2019, Hyundai has sold 51,499 units, up 7.9 per cent over the same period last year.

photo: hyundai canada via facebook

“Part of it is the new products and how we’ve positioned them in the market. What’s happened is the value of our dollar has declined significantly. When that happens, most of our cars are imported and all of the content that goes in every car is imported. No matter what car, whether it’s built in Canada, which is very few of them, or not, is going to be negatively impacted by a low dollar,” said Romano.



“So all products that are imported and all products that are made with imported components the prices are going to go up. So you’ve seen industry pricing going up. Transaction prices are going up because you can’t absorb a 30 per cent swing of a dollar. Those margins don’t exist in any industry. So as prices go up, volume comes down.

“What we were successful at doing is bringing in new products but at much more price effective levels. We brought in a small SUV the Kona which took off because it was priced right . . .  And then we were one of the few early adopters to electric vehicles. We brought out the Ioniq which is the electric line and the Kona electric. If you start adding those two products together, its starts making up the difference.”

PHOTO: OPENROAD HYUNDAI BOUNDARY VIA FACEBOOK

Hyundai also successfully adopted a new marketing strategy. The company’s more integrated digital focus has led to a deeper understanding of online audiences and a continued shift of retail communications to the web, culminating in stronger brand messaging and greater overall efficiency. This strategy has benefited all areas of the business, recently resulting in five-year highs in website traffic, search traffic, dealer traffic and build and price configurations with the number of credit applications also reaching a four-year high in 2019.




Part of its success has been the fact the company got dealers to reinvest in the brand after a number of difficult years.

“So they weren’t happy about it. They have to remodel their facilities. When you’re building new facilities in a down market that’s a scary, difficult decision for a dealer to make. They’re entrepreneurs. It’s their money. And you’re telling them to spend their money upgrading the facilities,” said Romano.

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By Lisa Kramer, University of Toronto

With summer just around the corner, it’s not just the weather heating up in Canada. The plant-based foods sector is also starting to sizzle.



Consumers are increasingly following the advice of the new Canada Food Guide, which highlights the nutritional benefits of protein sources like nuts, beans, legumes, pulses and tofu in place of meat, eggs, fish and dairy products. And these eating habits are expected to stick, with a recent report anticipating that up to 60 per cent of “meat” may come from non-animal sources by the year 2040.

Consistent with these shifts in consumer preferences, plant-based meat company Beyond Meat recently saw its stock price surge almost 40 per cent, after its first performance report as a publicly traded company revealed far better-than-expected sales.

This is the same company that also enjoyed one of the hottest initial public offerings of the year, rising more than 150 per cent on its first day of trading earlier this year. Overall, the stock’s price is up about 400 per cent since its debut.

PHOTO: BEYOND MEAT VIA FACEBOOK

PHOTO: BEYOND MEAT VIA FACEBOOK

Restaurants, grocers offer plant-based foods

Adapting to shifting consumer preferences, several Canadian restaurant chains have introduced plant-based items to their traditionally meat-laden menus. When A&W Canada launched the Beyond Meat Burger last fall, restaurants across the country sold out within days and took months to restock sufficient supplies to ensure a smooth relaunch.


Tim Hortons now sells vegan breakfast sausagesQuesada introduced tacos made with veggie meat and Earl’s has launched its own Beyond Burger as well as a new vegan menu.

Canadian grocery stores are also catering to consumers’ predilection for plant-based meats. Last month, mainstream supermarkets across the country began carrying the Beyond Burger, with some opting to place the product not in the health food aisles but instead in the butcher section alongside steaks and ribs.

PHOTO: BEYOND MEAT VIA FACEBOOK

And some retailers have additionally developed their own in-house varieties of plant-based foods, including the President’s Choice selection of veggie burgers, chicken-less fingers and beef-free crumble.Furthermore, shoppers now face an embarrassment of riches in the dairy section, with anyone seeking to avoid cow’s milk enjoying a choice of beverages made from soy, almond, coconut and oat.

These developments are indicative of a sea change in the market for vegan foods, with demand coming not just from vegetarians. Meat eaters, too, are drawn by the lower health risks associated with non-animal sourced proteins, a desire to reduce the environmental impact of their food choices and concerns about animal welfare.

PHOTO: DAIYA FOODS VIA FACEBOOK

A backlash

But some industry groups are attempting to push back against the plant-based food movement. In January, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency received a complaint about non-dairy products “being labelled as ‘cheese’ when they are allegedly not.”



Likewise, the Quebec Cattle Producers Federation recently expressed concern that calling veggie burgers “plant-based meat” is misleading to consumers, noting that the regulatory definition of meat is “the carcass of a food animal, the blood of a food animal, or a product or by-product of its carcass.” Yum?

But studies support the view that consumers are not the least bit confused by the use of monikers such as “milk” or “meat” in reference to plant-based foods. This makes sense, given the products’ labels tend to feature prominent information about their origins. And so prudent producers and retailers are preparing for the future by catering to consumer preferences for these foods rather than fixating on the past.

PHOTO: BEYOND MEAT VIA FACEBOOK

An important lesson emerges from another industry that faced a major shift in consumer demand. When digital photography was emerging as a new technology, a then-leader of the photography sector, Kodak, faced a difficult choice.


The company could cannibalize its own camera film sales to become an early leader in the digital space, which would be painful but potentially lucrative. Or it could try to postpone the inevitable and cling to a fading technology. Kodak chose the latter path, and the competition ate their lunch.

Now tech companies like Panasonic, Sony and Samsung stand alongside Canon and Nikon to dominate the world of digital photography, leaving Kodak a mere shadow of its former self.

Forward-looking meat-producing companies must reframe their thinking to recognize that they are in the protein production business. With many consumers avoiding animal-sourced protein, the opportunity emerges to shift focus to developing and producing alternate types of food.

Adapting to the future
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By Mario Toneguzzi  

Brand and retailer loyalty practices are changing faster than ever and an upcoming event in Toronto, hosted by Leger, will present the most recent findings on Canada’s most extensive study in the area through its LoyalT report

[Click here to reserve your free ticket]

Conducted in collaboration with R3 Marketing, the LoyalT study is the only comprehensive annual performance study on Canadian loyalty programs, allowing brands to compare their program performance to that of competitors and the overall market. This is the third edition of the unique study. 

The King Galery at 1 King Street WEst in Toronto. Photo: 1 King street.

Leger, the largest Canadian-owned, market research and analytics company, notes that the growth of the Millennial market, intensifying customer expectations, new technologies and digital players are forcing companies to develop more dynamic loyalty programs - programs that are relevant, adaptive and which make ongoing use of transactional data. 

The event takes place June 20 from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at One King West (The King Gallery). One of the guest speakers will be Alan Middleton (MBA, PhD, BSc, Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Marketing; Executive Director Schulich Executive Education Centre), who specializes in brand marketing. Hans Laroche, an associate with R3 Marketing, will be speaking about retailer loyalty programs. 

Michelle Carter, Senior Vice President, Leger, will talk about loyalty programs in general, where they came from and where brand loyalty fits within the mix of retailer loyalty. She will also highlight some generational differences when it comes to data transparency expectations. 

Image: Leger

“We’re looking forward to sharing some meaningful new insights from the report and discussing key industry trends with attendees,” said Carter. “Consumer expectations are changing and retailers are trying to stay ahead of the competition by coming up with programs that are increasingly more relevant to their customer base. With this study, we’re trying to help them pinpoint what is going to drive relevancy within their customer base.” 

Attendees can also learn how to leverage the data in their business to drive customer engagement and loyalty. 

Laroche notes that 10 – 15 years ago, loyalty programs tended to be found mainly at retailers where customers shop more frequently, such as every week or two (for example, pharmacies, gas stations, and supermarkets). These high frequency sectors continue to have successful loyalty programs. However, over time, more retailers and companies have developed loyalty programs (even if their customers tend to shop less frequently), for example, the restaurant industry in the United States, or the fashion industry.  

Although this year’s special edition of the LoyalT report focuses on the pharmacy and the food industry, the expansion of loyalty programs means that the report is relevant for a wide variety of sectors.  

One King West in Toronto. Photo: One King West

This edition of the LoyalT report also includes an exploration of how players like Amazon and Costco impact pharmacy and supermarket retailers and explores some of the new fee-based programs like Amazon Prime and PC Insider. Laroche also noted that two very strong loyalty programs were launched in the past year (PC Plus joining with Optimum, and the introduction of Canadian Tire’s new program, Triangle).  

Today, the trend in the retail industry is to make decisions based on data and if retailers don’t know their customers, and their shopping habits, it will become tougher and tougher to manage their business. 

A key reason that retailers develop loyalty programs is to get access to data – specifically transactional data – to have a better understanding of what people buy, at what frequency, from what departments, and their preferences. 

PC Optimum Loyalty Card. Photo: Loblaw

“If you’re a big retailer, there’s no way you can be competitive if you don’t have access to this type of transactional data. You learn how your customers shop, but you are also able to make some more relevant communications and offers in order to increase basket size and frequency... in fact, is a pretext to get access to data,” Laroche notes.  

“Right now the most profitable retailers are the ones that are using transactional data and their strategy is all based on transactional data. What we’re seeing over the last 10 years is that they have a tendency to cut budgets in areas like soft and unmeasurable marketing space (such as sponsorship and traditional advertising), and are putting more and more money into relational marketing: knowing the data, getting the data and making offers based on consumer behaviour,” said Laroche.

Laroche notes that the real measure of the performance of a loyalty program is the behavioural aspect. With Leger, R3 developed a methodology to measure not only whether people would recommend the loyalty program but also whether they are engaged in the program. 

Canadian Tire ‘Triangle’ loyalty program. Image: Canadian Tire

“The best performing programs are those that change behaviour,” said Laroche. 

Carter mentioned that historically, people have used an NPS (Net Promoter Score) to measure satisfaction or loyalty but today, to be successful, retailers need to be looking at a couple of different dimensions with respect to how their program is resonating with consumers. 

“That’s what the study is aiming to achieve; measuring not only the program satisfaction, but whether it is really resonating with a retailer’s shoppers to such a degree that they are also changing their behaviours,” she said.   

To register for this event, please visit the following link: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/loyalt-2019-tickets-62443973606

 

 

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LOUIS VUITTON’S NEW storefront AT WEST EDMONTON MALL. PHOTO: LOUIS VUITTON

By Craig Patterson

French luxury brand Louis Vuitton , known particularly for its monogram canvas products, has opened a large standalone storefront at West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton. The impressive space is now the brand’s third-largest unit in Canada, as Louis Vuitton continues to expand its operations further in this country. West Edmonton Mall, itself, is in the process of creating a ‘luxury centre run’ its second level that will see more high-end tenants moving in. 



The new West Edmonton Mall Louis Vuitton store spans more than 4,600 square feet in total leased area with about 3,300 square feet dedicated to retail. The store’s facade is comprised of limestone pieces that were cut into flower medallions in a combination of smooth and rough finishes, which provides a subtle play on Louis Vuitton’s emblems, according to the company. A transparent metal mesh on the facade with Louis Vuitton’s monogram floral logos also provide visibility into the store. 

Toronto-based dkstudio led the design execution of the new Edmonton store, which was designed by Louis Vuitton Paris. 

While European luxury brands often import fixtures from overseas, Louis Vuitton incorporated local craftsmanship for the new Edmonton store. Local furniture maker Kenton Jeske was responsible for creating three wooden fixtures for the store, including a counter near the store’s entryway, a console in the lounge seating area, and a round display table in the men’s ‘leather goods universe’. Canadian artist Tim Reckner was commissioned to create an art piece called “Pink Moon”.

CLICK FOR INTERACTIVE MAP

Inside LOUIS VUITTON’S NEW store AT WEST EDMONTON MALL. PHOTO: LOUIS VUITTON

A local group of students used traditional methods of beading and tufting on a piece of Louis Vuitton leather that has been displayed under glass in the display console in the store’s lounge area. To continue with the Canadian theme, French photographer Alex Strohl produced two images of the Canadian landscape that are prominently displayed in the store. 



Product categories in the new store include men’s and women’s leather goods as well as shoes, accessories, fragrances and candles. The store currently doesn’t stock Louis Vuitton’s ready-to-wear collections, which are only carried in Canada at the brand’s flagships in Toronto and Vancouver. 

The West Edmonton Mall Louis Vuitton store occupies part of a 6,270 square foot retail space formerly tenanted by retailer Banana Republic. Edmonton-based fashion brand Workhall recently opened a storefront in the remainder of the former Banana Republic space next to Louis Vuitton, where it expected to remain for an extended period of time.


SLIDESHOW: Swipe for More

LOUIS VUITTON’S YORKDALE BOUTIQUE AT HOLT RENFREW. ALL PHOTOS: GOOGLE MAPS



PHOTO: WEST EDMONTON MALL VIA FACEBOOK



The area surrounding West Edmonton Mall’s Louis Vuitton has seen the addition of upscale retailers over the past few years. Across from the new Vuitton, Tiffany & Co. opened a 3,300 square foot storefront in October of 2013, and other upscale stores followed including Kate Spade, Coach, Stuart Weitzman, Marc Cain and Gemoro/Rolex. Coach recently renovated its store in the area, including adding a first-to-Canada Coach accessory wall. More retailers are on the way for the immediate area — Canada Goose recently announced that it will open a large store across the hall in the fall, featuring a ‘cold room’ to test out parkas in sub-zero temperatures. Rapidly expanding fashion brand UNTUCKit will open next to Canada Goose, with Mackage and Matt & Nat set to open storefronts nearby.  

More luxury brands are said to be in talks to open nearby as well. With the closure of downtown Edmonton’s Holt Renfrew next year, brands such as Gucci are expected to be targeted by West Edmonton Mall landlord Triple Five Corporation to open standalone units. As high-end brands are added, West Edmonton Mall is creating something of a ‘luxury wing’ similar to that of Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre. Louis Vuitton is such a strong brand that experts say that it could seal the deal for other high-end brands looking to locate nearby. 

LOUIS VUITTON’S CF CHINOOK CENTRE BOUTIQUE. Photo supplied

Several years ago West Edmonton Mall was considering..

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By Retail Insider

A leading Toronto-based retail recruiter is disrupting the industry after launching a membership-based service that saves retailers and landlords time, while at the same time being considerably less costly than traditional recruitment methods. Suzanne Sears, President of Best Retail Careers International Inc., launched Retail Staffing Canada Inc. earlier this year and it’s already seeing remarkable traction.

She says that she started the new recruitment business concept to better serve retailers and landlords that may otherwise see resistance when seeking a budget for external recruiting. With that in mind, Ms. Sears designed and launched the ‘recruit by membership’ program which aims to be the new standard for retail staffing in Canada.

Ms. Sears explained how her program enabled retailers and landlords to access every level of talent from “street to suite”. The concept is simple: members purchase a core club membership and use a credit system to receive pre-screened candidates.

“Rather than paying hundreds or thousands of dollars in non-productive advertisements to hire staff, the membership guarantees that you will receive quality applicants. You place an order for the number of candidates you want to see based upon how many membership points that you wish to spend. This has cut costs to an extraordinary average of about $1,000 per candidate hire, which is a fraction of traditional recruiting,” she said

She says that in most instances, she and her team of retail brokers can turn around orders for new staff in 48 to 72 hours, which is significantly faster than traditional recruitment methods. “Empty roles in retail and equivalent lost sales and productivity are the subject of many studies. Most suggest the fill costs and losses add up to four times the missing person’s monthly salary, “she said.

“In a climate of 5.4% unemployment, retailers cannot sit back and expect dream candidates to saunter in the door via ads or corporate job boards.”

“The only way to access quality candidates is to have a massive network to draw from”, said Ms. Sears. She went on to explain that she is able to draw from her personal connections of nearly 20,000 retailers and by second degree, into the millions.

Last year we reported on Ms. Sears’ SuperStar Talent Registry of Best Retail Careers International, which became the foundation of these ‘ready to work’ candidates, she explained. From there it has grown as candidates “more often now want to be personally represented, speak to live people and avoid the dark hole of online applications”.

Ms. Sears revealed that her new Retail Staffing Canada clients value the time savings from not having to sort through and screen ‘below par resumes’, and as well, they can tackle a very concerning new problem. Some stores in Canada are having to close down temporarily during posted hours due to lack of staff.

“Increasingly, even in malls where fines are imposed for late openings, it is very common to find stores so short staffed they don’t open the doors for business either on time or at all. Frequently many stores are electing to shut down one or more days a week -- they pay full rent but lose the revenue.”

“Finance departments are blissfully unaware of the huge struggles Human Resources and Operations go through to find staff insisting they should be able to do it on their own or with internal recruiters,” said Ms. Sears. “However there just are not enough people ‘ad shopping’ for jobs to make this method of recruiting effective and timely to meet day to day staffing needs.”

“At the same time, their pleas for external recruiting budgets are denied by the employer, and they’re left frustrated and with few support options.”

Ms. Sears explained how her Recruit by Membership is a staffing support that replaces a significant amount of funds spent on ads and as a result, redirects that budget to direct staffing. “Recruiting nowadays is about accessing your social network and internal recruiters simply have no means or time to build social media followings like we do, talking to people every day about their futures, keeping them in mind for when openings come up,” said Ms. Sears.

A secondary problem, according to Ms. Sears, is closing the offerings for new hires. “Without a skilled recruiter to mediate, candidates are turning down jobs in record numbers if they don’t see the contracts and benefits and perks they have come to expect.” She went on to say, “It is a sellers’ market as far as staff goes -- the firm with the best package and cultural story wins the best talent”, she said.

To solve these problems, Retail Staffing Canada Inc. Memberships come with free consulting hours to tap into the deep knowledge base of her team on how to recruit more efficiently, how to close on offers and how to retain staff.

“These services are not just for street level or head office support staff, they apply equally to executive hiring who even more these days are retiring or unwilling to get caught up in the ecommerce battle with bricks and mortar,” said Suzanne Sears. “Only a highly skilled agent can bring these executives to your table and get them signed.”

“The program has been overwhelming popular. I have had to take on additional specialty brokers to aid the volume of requests. Clients tell me they will never go back to old fashioned recruiting of post and pray or take on very expensive contingency recruiting services either,” she went on to explain.

“We still do executive level retained searches, but these fees are cut by 50% if you have a membership”, she added.

“We become your outside and invisible staffing support system. We deliver just like Skip the Dishes, right to your desk, prequalified candidates ready to go. Your own team takes it from there.”

Ms. Sears also states that they will be adding several new features for back to school hiring for this fall, including a job board option with a membership purchase where retailers can post their open roles directly through Best Retail Careers International Inc. to directly reach the company’s massive following of retail workers seeking out new positions.

Sears invites you to learn more by submitting the information request before for a prompt reply.

Name * Name First Name Last Name Email * Message *

Thank you! Suzanne Sears will get back to you shortly.

*Best Retail Careers International Inc. is a sponsor of Retail Insider. To work with Retail Insider to get the message out, email Craig Patterson at: craig@retail-insider.com.

SUBSCRIBE to Retail Insider's Daily E-News for Free: * indicates required Email Address *
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By Retail Insider 

You are invited to attend the celebratory launch of Tim Mason’s new book, “Omnichannel Retail: How to build winning stores in a digital world”.

This event is a great opportunity for anyone in the retail sector who is interested in learning how to harness the power of digital and mobile technology to delight customers and drive footfall, sales & frequency.

After 40+ years working with and for retailers, Mr. Mason was given the opportunity to distil all he has learned into a book. Omnichannel Retail shares lessons from Tim's time as CMO and Deputy CEO of Tesco through to his current role as CEO of Eagle Eye, where he has been central to the success of the PC Optimum programme at Loblaws in Canada.

Omnichannel Retail demystifies digital engagement and loyalty in today’s customer-facing physical spaces. It also traces the impact and growing online opportunity to bring digital in store via mobile, based on lessons learned using customer data to foster loyalty in the face of unprecedented change.

The book has already been rated Best New Book on Retail by the BookAuthority and has featured on the BBC, Retail TouchPoints and the Retail Transformation Show.

Guests will receive a complimentary copy of the book along with a chance to meet the author and get involved in an interactive Q&A session.

EVENT INFORMATION

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UNIQLO STORE AT CF RICHMOND CENTRE PHOTO: RITCHIE PO

By Craig Patterson 

Popular Japanese fashion retailer Uniqlo will enter the Alberta market this fall when it opens a storefront at the popular West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton. The store is the first in Canada for Uniqlo outside of the Toronto and Vancouver markets, kicking off the brand’s national expansion that could eventually see as many as 100 stores in the coming years. 



Uniqlo will locate in a second-level retail space at West Edmonton Mall spanning just over 17,000 square feet according to lease plans, in a strategic location overlooking the mall’s indoor skating rink called the ‘Mayfield Toyota Ice Palace’. Uniqlo will occupy three retail spaces formerly occupied by Murale, Laura and Browns Shoes. Shoppers Drug Mart-owned beauty concept Murale appears to be in the process of shuttering its last stores. The former West Edmonton Mall Murale unit included about 3,000 square feet of retail space with an additional 2,665 square feet on an upstairs mezzanine level. Laura recently relocated to a new retail space at West Edmonton Mall, vacating its 10,300 square foot space next to Murale and across from the mall’s busy Lululemon and Zara stores. Browns Shoes has already vacated its space next to the former Laura unit and will reopen in a 7,500 square foot space in the mall that was formerly occupied by Williams Sonoma, making it one of Browns’ largest stores when it opens.

click for interactive map

West Edmonton Mall is likely to be a very successful location for Uniqlo. The busy shopping centre sees more than 28-million visitors annually, with nearly half being from out-of-town. Edmonton is becoming more multicultural and many residents are already familiar with the Uniqlo brand — locals have been eagerly anticipating the brand’s entry into the Edmonton market after Uniqlo opened its first Canadian storefronts in the fall of 2016. 




Uniqlo’s colourful stores are known for their staple fashion lines — Uniqlo ‘ultra light down puffer jackets’ are wildly popular worldwide, as is the brand’s cashmere offerings and the ‘HEATTECH’ line which features a technological innovation involving inner wear that generates heat from one’s own body temperature (Uniqlo refers to its fashions as ‘LifeWear’). Uniqlo also regularly releases limited-edition t-shirts which often sellout quickly to crowds of fans.

Uniqlo currently operates 11 stores in Canada, with seven of those in the Greater Toronto Area and four in the Vancouver area. Uniqlo entered the Canadian market with two stores in Toronto in the fall of 2016. In September of 2016, Uniqlo opened its first Canadian flagship, spanning 33,400 square feet, at CF Toronto Eaton Centre. A 30,000+ square foot Yorkdale Shopping Centre Uniqlo store subsequently opened in October of 2016, in the mall’s Nordstrom-anchored expansion wing. The CF Toronto Eaton Centre flagship recently expanded further by about 4,500 square feet when it added Canada’s first ‘UT’ shop selling the brand’s popular limited edition t-shirts.  

Yorkdale Shopping Centre store opening in August of 2016. Photo: Devon Johnson

Photo: Uniqlo

Uniqlo’s first store in the BC Lower Mainland opened in October of 2017 at Metropolis at Metrotown in Burnaby, in a 20,630 two-level space. That was followed by the opening of a 17,900 square foot location at Guildford Town Centre in Surrey in March of 2018, and then with an 11,570 square foot store at CF Richmond Centre in suburban Vancouver. 



Most recently, Uniqlo opened its 10th and 11th Canadian storefronts in the Greater Toronto Area. In March, the retailer opened a 12,000 square foot store at Oshawa Centre east of Toronto, which was followed by the April opening of a 15,000 square foot location at Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket. 

Uniqlo is noticeably absent from the downtown Vancouver market, and a large flagship store announcement is expected at some point if a retail space can be secured. As far back as 2014, sources confirmed that Uniqlo had been in talks to operate a three-level flagship on Robson Street in a newly-build retail building next to Sephora on the 1000-block, though the store never opened. 


SLIDESHOW: Swipe for More

UNIQLO’S NEWLY EXPANDED CF TORONTO EATON CENTRE STORE ALL PHOTOS: UNIQLO VIA FACEBOOK





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PHOTO: POPCANN

By Mario Toneguzzi

Toronto-based POPCANN, the only tech-driven, prefabricated cannabis retail store, is poised for aggressive expansion across the country.



Co-founders Mike Girgis and Jake Neiman have created a concept they believe will disrupt the mainstream retail approach for bringing legal cannabis to more markets and alternative destinations.

“Mike and I have been business partners now for 17 years in the marketing and experiential technology space,” said Neiman, who is the company’s CEO. “We own and operate an innovation company and a marketing technology company called Big Digital and through our operation of Big Digital we do lots of pop up and permanent activation and technology installations for advertising agencies and brands and retailers.

PHOTO: POPCANN


“Through all of our efforts with these different organizations we uncovered this very interesting and untapped opportunity within the cannabis space. And that was about a year ago when we first started to develop POPCANN as a solution for the cannabis industry . . . Our mandate is to ensure legal cannabis is made accessible to customers wherever they may be. Optimal sizes and layouts enable us to bring legal cannabis to northern communities, music festivals, seasonal towns and other non-traditional environments, and offer a truly unique retail experience.”

The company is applying for retail licences and in the next 12 months, it is expecting seven to 10 stores to be fully operational. Three locations are currently under development in Manitoba and should be operating by the end of summer.

“In the long-term, we think that there could be several hundred POPCANNs operational across North America,” said Neiman. 

POPCANN DESIGNED FOR FESTIVALS AND OUTDOOR USE RENDERING: POPCANN.COM

POPCANN’s are developed specifically for the cannabis industry and are compliant with the regulations in the markets in which they operate.



POPCANNs integrate the latest experiential and projection mapping technology.

“POPCANN is a solution to make legal cannabis much more accessible to Canadians,” said Neiman. “POPCANN was created as a responsive solution to be able to bring legal cannabis to these different markets very quickly.”

The retail stores range in size from 400 square feet up to about 800 square feet and the company is developing POPCANNs that are up to 2,000 square feet. The units are built from reclaimed shipping containers.

PHOTO: POPCANN

“The way we can do a 2,000-square-foot POPCANN is having multiple modular sections that get delivered in sections that can be assembled within a couple of days,” said Neiman.


Girgis, the company’s President, said it has created an immersive experience by deploying marketing technology in the shipping containers.

“When you walk into a POPCANN, the moment you walk in, you’re going to realize that it’s not like a regular store. Not just because the fact it’s a shipping container and it’s a little smaller. But we’re using projection technology to map visual communications right on the wall so you won’t see shelving, won’t see product. You will just see digital imagery and communications on the walls to create these immersive experiences,” said Girgis.

VENDING MACHINE-STYLE POPCANN RENDERING: POPCANN.COM

“You will have a wide screen right above the ordering counter that displays our feature products. You’ll have touchscreen technology if you want to peruse the products on your own and there’s also a WiFi network that you can jump onto the POPCANN network to peruse the products as well. But it’s really, truly, taking advantage of the latest in digital technology from a projection perspective. We’re using augmented reality so people can use their own phones to look at products based on markers that we have on our walls and on the screens. So really trying to create an innovative digital experience.”



Inside of every POPCANN is a vault to hold the product. The interior is custom built to be fully compliant with cannabis retail regulations.

POPCANN has also partnered with Storage Vault’s portable storage division to bring POPCANN to diverse regions. 

“Our partnership with POPCANN is an excellent example of how very different businesses can team up in creative ways,” said Steven Scott, CEO of Storage Vault. “This partnership provides POPCANN with a national infrastructure, logistics and distribution platform to bring legal cannabis to Canadians from secure, yet accessible areas.”

PHOTO: POPCANN

Neiman said a unique element of POPCANN’s partnership with Storage Vault is that the company has the cranes, the trucking and the logistical infrastructure to support its needs as it starts to distribute the units to different destinations.

“One of the reasons POPCANN partnered with them was to leverage their existing infrastructure to enable us to be operating in places like Calgary and Edmonton where they have existing facilities already in place. We can leverage their logistical infrastructure to be much more responsive than we would as a startup,” he said.

Neiman said POPCANNs are perfect solutions for having retail stores at music festivals, concerts and multi-day events. The units are custom-engineered for these types of environments.

Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media..

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