Popular plus-sized U.S. retailer Torrid plans to open a substantial number of retail locations in Canada, following the recent opening of its first international location in Toronto. We spoke with CEO Lisa Harper to gain insight into Torrid's plans to dominate Canada's plus-sized womenswear market, and how recent changes to the company have led to increased success.
Torrid was founded by retailer Hot Topic in suburban Los Angeles in 2001. Torrid quickly grew to become a lifestyle brand, now carrying a wide variety of ready-to-wear (sizes 12-26), footwear, undergarments, beauty products and accessories. The company is particularly known for following the latest fashion trends, head-to-toe. Torrid boasts over 320 stores in the United States and by the end of 2015, it will have opened 80 locations, including five in Canada.
We asked Ms. Harper why she chose Canada to launch Torrid's international expansion and she explained that about half of all of Torrid's international e-commerce business was already in Canada. Furthermore, Canadians overwhelmingly requested that Torrid open here and given the success of its stores close to the Canadian border, the company felt it was time to expand beyond the United States.
Torrid's first Canadian location opened September 1 at Toronto Eaton Centre. Ms. Harper revealed that in October, locations will open at Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket, Ontario, as well as at Vaughan Mills, just north of Toronto. She said that two more Ontario locations will be revealed shortly, both to open this year.
Ms. Harper then went on to say that Torrid will open about 10 Canadian locations in 2016, targeting British Columbia, Calgary and Edmonton. She said that, ultimately, Torrid will look to operate between 40 and 50 locations in Canada, ideally in the 3,000 square foot to 3,500 square foot range. She noted that space in Canadian malls is a bit tighter than in the U.S., so some Canadian locations may be slightly smaller than the typical American Torrid store. Furthermore, markets where Hot Topic is located will generally be first to see Torrid locations, given pre-existing knowledge of those markets. Hot Topic currently operates nine stores in Southern Ontario and Alberta, and about 700 locations in the United States.
Torrid modified its business model about two and a half years ago, according to Ms. Harper, resulting in significantly increased sales. The company became more trend-focused and expanded its offerings, and women were immediately receptive. She explained how fashions are now 'younger and sexier', and how the 'full-wardrobing' approach had led to increased customer loyalty, prompting the company's aggressive expansion plans.