By Megan Harman
Montreal-based eyewear company BonLook is embarking on an aggressive expansion strategy, with plans to open 20 stores that take a modern spin on the traditional in-store shopping experience.
BonLook launched in 2011 as an online retailer specializing in trendy prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses. A vertically integrated company, Bonlook controls the design, manufacturing and distribution of the products, enabling it to produce merchandise that's both high quality and affordable.
The company has opened three boutiques in Quebec so far this year, and that’s just the beginning of its ambitious growth endeavour.
In July, the retailer announced the signing of a financing deal with Walter Capital Partners, a private equity firm which invests in small and medium-sized businesses to help accelerate their growth. That deal, which includes an initial round of funding as well as a long-term commitment, enables BonLook to fast track its expansion plans.
BonLook opened its first retail 'kiosk' at Promenades Cathédrale in Montreal in June of 2015, followed by its first concept boutique in February of 2016 at CF Fairview Pointe Claire in Montreal’s West Island, followed by a second at CF Carrefour Laval in May of this year.
The chain is now preparing to expand into Ontario, with plans to open a handful of boutiques this fall. New locations will include at CF Rideau Centre in Ottawa, CF Masonville Place in London, and at CF Toronto Eaton Centre in Toronto. Another Quebec location is also slated to open this fall, at Quartier DIX30 in Brossard, outside of Montreal.
The new boutiques aim to complement BonLook’s online sales channel, by providing shoppers with the opportunity to visit a store for access to optician services, stylist consultations, measurements and adjustments, and the opportunity to try on frames in-store.
Unlike most stores, the new BonLook boutiques are missing one key element: cash registers. Rather than paying at a traditional cashier counter, shoppers at BonLook stores carry out their transactions online. The goal is to create a modern, “hassle-free” environment where interactions between employees and customers can be more relaxed.
The boutiques were designed by Aedifica, a full-service architecture and design firm based in Montreal. For the inaugural 325-square-foot CF Fairview Pointe Claire concept store, the designers sought to create a minimalist layout. They utilized floor-to-ceiling mirrored walls to make the boutique feel open and spacious, and to provide ample space for shoppers trying on frames to check their reflection. Accents in marble and wood create a clean, modern look.
Aedifica also worked with various other players in the Quebec design industry in creating the concept, including Lambert et Fils lighting, Larose Guyon table accessories, Coop ÉTABLI furniture and Dahls uniforms.
Bonlook also operates two other retail locations: a showroom in Montreal’s St. Henri neighbourhood, along with the kiosk mentioned above in downtown Montreal’s underground Promenades Cathédrale.
*All photos are of the CF Fairview Ponte-Claire store, via dexigner.com.
Megan Harman is a business reporter based in Toronto. She writes about topics including retail, financial services and technology. Megan covers Toronto’s retail industry through her blog Retail Realm (torontoretail.wordpress.com). Follow her on Twitter at @meganmharman.