Calgary-based apparel and footwear retailer Mark's (formerly Mark's Work Wearhouse) continues to open Canadian stores and this fall, it will launch a 'test store', which will also be its largest to date. We spoke with Mark's COO Rick White to learn more.
Mark's currently operates 383 Canadian locations. Mr. White says that Mark's will continue to open stores, generally somewhere between five and 10 locations each year. He says that Mark's is also focused on expanding some of its more productive existing locations, including some deemed too small to serve increasingly high sales. The ideal size for a Mark's location is now about 15,000 to 16,000 square feet, providing enough space for the retailer's expanded product assortment as well as newly-added brands. Mr. White explains how regardless of location, access to the store is key. Even if a store is located in a shopping centre, for example, having an exterior entrance is convenient to industrially-employed customers dressed in workwear, not wishing to enter Mark's via a mall. An external entrance close to parking also provides quick access for busy shoppers.
Mr. White reveals that Mark's will open a 22,000 square foot 'test store' at West Edmonton Mall in October, which will also be the chain's largest location. The store will feature multiple shops-in-stores for new brands including Helly Hansen, Columbia Sportswear and Alfred Sung, among others. Footwear will include wall installations for brands such ask Merrell and Sketchers, and a Levi's shop-in-store will anchor a new denim area. Shoppers suggested that Mark's bring in new top brands to its stores, and Mark's will test them out alongside its existing popular in-house labels. If Mark's sees success with the new strategy, it could roll it out into other locations nationally. As well, Mark's continues to examine the possibility of opening locations within shopping centres, keeping in mind that exterior entrances will be popular with some of its shoppers.
Given its 'test phase', Mr. White says it's hard to determine how many stores Mark's will ultimately operate, and whether or not it will increasingly open in malls. He revealed that the Greater Toronto area currently sees its highest sales, primarily due to its large population.
We briefly discussed Mark's introduction of iconic Canadian women's fashion brand Alfred Sung to its stores. Sung launched at Mark's last fall, and Mr. White says that sales have been exceptional with women of all ages.
Mark's will also launch an updated, bilingual, content-rich website in the fourth quarter of this year, as well as a French site for the province of Quebec. Mr. White says that although e-commerce is currently only a small part of its business, Mark's hopes to see it grow substantially with its new web initiatives. Mark's is also looking to grow its business-to-business operations as part of its holistic growth strategy.
Mark's (known as L’Equipeur in Quebec) was founded in Calgary in 1977, and has been part of the Canadian Tire Family of Companies since 2001. Mark’s has evolved from an industrial accessories dealer to the number one men’s casual and industrial apparel retailer in the country. Originally named 'Mark’s Work Wearhouse', the banner rebranded in 2012 as 'Mark’s' to appeal to a wider customer base and reflect its expanded product offerings.