Photo: is expanding its bricks-and-mortar retail store network worldwide. We interviewed the company's founder and CEO, Roger Hardy, to learn more. The following is a brief summary of our discussion topics...'s New Vancouver store: Mr. Hardy informs us that Clearly Contacts will open a new, permanent location in Vancouver at 961 Robson Street. It will replace T-shirt retailer Bang-On, which will move to a shop-in-store location within Used House of Vintage at 1008 Robson Street (2nd floor). Lease plans show that the new Clearly Contacts store will be about 1,320 square feet.

Location of the new 961 Robson Street store (within Robson Central, managed by Morguard Investments)

Robson Street store sales - in excess of over $2,000/ square foot: Mr. Hardy notes that sales have been stellar at his current Robson Street store, exceeding $2,000/square foot/annually. This is quite high in the retail world, and few retailers save for possibly Lululemon and Tiffany & Co. in Vancouver can claim higher.

Retail store expansion: We can expect Clearly Contacts to expand its stores nationally. Store locations are picked based on local demographics as well as pedestrian footfall. Potential store locations, both street-front and within shopping malls, will be considered. Mr. Hardy wouldn't elaborate on which Canadian cities will see stores first, though we've heard that Calgary and Toronto are likely next.

International Expansion: Clearly Contacts will expand its bricks-and-mortar retail network overseas. We can expect the first international locations to open in Australia, which is also one of the company's best online markets. No word yet on what other countries will be targeted for store openings.

961 Robson Street, Vancouver, soon to be a permanent Clearly Contacts store

Why bricks-and-mortar stores? The Robson Street store was meant to engage the public face-to-face. A six-month lease was signed for a 1,000 square foot Robson Street store, which proved to be popular. A second location opened recently in Vancouver's popular Kitsilano area, and a permanent Robson Street space was recently secured. New stores will continue to engage customers face-to-face, but they're also proving to be profitable.

The difference between online and bricks-and-mortar retailing: Mr. Hardy notes that it's very expensive to operate an online retailer, and expressed surprise that other companies expect to sell online without considering the vast effort and potential high costs. His company has over 100 marketing staff and over 100 IT staff for its online sales division, which costs the company over $100 million. Note of advice for smaller retailers looking to sell online - take note of those numbers.

We'll keep you updated when we learn of what other Canadian cities will see Clearly Contacts stores.

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