Victoria-based lifestyle brand Sitka is looking to expand its network of brick-and-mortar 'community centre' stores nationally, and it's using a rather unique method to do so. The conservation-focused brand launched a crowdfunding campaign last week with the intent to move the brand into various Canadian markets, while continuing to promote and fund wilderness conservation. We spoke with the company's co-founder to learn more.
Founded as a surfboard brand in Victoria, B.C. in 2002, Sitka retails outdoor gear, clothing, and related accessories. The company says part of its mission is 'wilderness activism' with a portion of its profits going to conservation. It currently has three brick-and-mortar 'community centres', including two in Canada. Last week, Sitka opened its second permanent Canadian location in Vancouver, adding to its existing flagship in Victoria and a location in Auckland, New Zealand.
The 2,100 square foot Vancouver location, which opened on April 20 at 2127 W. 4th Avenue in Kitsilano, features sustainable wood furniture by a local woodworker and an interactive 'cabin' where a digital screen displays Sitka's conservation projects.
The brand reportedly achieved sales of almost $4 million in 2013, with impressive growth forecasts. Besides its three brick-and-mortar stores, Sitka is retailed in over 200 stores across Canada, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Germany, South Korea and Indonesia.
We spoke with Sitka co-founder Rene Gauthier. He told us that the company is looking to open its 'community centres' in a number of Canadian locations, measuring between 2,000 and 3,000 square feet. Streetfront locations are most ideal, he says, though in some markets Sitka could move into shopping centres if the right opportunities come available. He says that another Vancouver location is likely in the cards and that a location in Whistler, B.C. could be next - depending on Sitka's crowdfunding success. Future markets on his radar include Calgary, Montreal, and Southern Ontario. Being from Winnipeg, Mr. Gauthier says he'd like to see a 'community centre' there some day, as well.
Mr. Gauthier also mentioned that the company's goal is for 100% of its clothing products to be made in Canada or the United States by late 2016, up from a current 60%.