Innovative Canadian Retailer BRIKA Continues Growth Through Multi-Channel Innovation

Toronto-based retailer BRIKA is using a combination of permanent brick-and-mortar, online, and pop-up retail to sell its wares. 

The company, founded four years ago as a pureplay online retailer, sells unique crafted products from “the most talented, authentic artisans and makers”, according to the company. BRIKA now has two permanent Toronto retail locations as well as a series of pop-ups in partnership with Oxford Properties, and the retailer is also launching online through a variety of retailers, including Lord & Taylor in the United States. 

The company’s vision is to inspire individuals to “discover the beauty” of a “well-crafted life” through its product stories. 

The name BRIKA comes from the Spanish word “Fabrica”, which means “Factory”. The company points out that there’s irony to its name, considering that products sold are neither generic nor mass-produced. 

The company was founded by Jennifer Lee Koss, a Harvard MBA graduate and Kena Paranjape, a University of Toronto MBA graduate, former retail buyer and blogger. Ms. Lee Koss hailed from the world of finance and all the while, was a fan of unique fashions. She came across Ms. Paranjape’s blog which led to a conversation over coffee, which evolved into a business idea to retail unique products not readily available in the marketplace. Their target market were busy women who wanted unique, hand-crafted products but didn’t have time to scour online sites such as Etsy

Founders: Ms. Paranjape on the left, Ms. Lee Koss on the right. Founders: Ms. Paranjape on the left, Ms. Lee Koss on the right. 

Founders: Ms. Paranjape on the left, Ms. Lee Koss on the right. 

The two women launched the BRIKA website in 2012 with five “makers”, and business quickly grew and about six months later, the founders had the opportunity to open a temporary brick-and-mortar location. They opened a 300 square foot boutique on the concourse level of Hudson’s Bay‘s Toronto Queen Street flagship in October of 2013 and after seeing considerable sales, expanded to 600 square feet. 

Hudson's Bay shop-in-store.Hudson's Bay shop-in-store.

Hudson’s Bay shop-in-store.

Seeing how brick-and-mortar locations complimented and augmented online sales, the founders opened a store at 642 Queen Street West in Toronto in the spring of 2015, followed by a second Leslieville location at 768 Queen Street East in the spring of this year. 

A unique partnership with Oxford Properties saw Brika open a temporary 3,000 square foot store at Toronto’s super-productive Yorkdale Shopping Centre for the 2015 winter Holiday Season. The store featured crafted products as well as a cafe and workshop at the back. The concept was a huge success, and Brika has now partnered with Oxford Properties to open temporary locations this year both at Yorkdale as well as at Mississauga’s Square One

BRIKA continues to utilize a shop-in-store pop-up model both in Canada as well as in the United States. The company has hosted pop-ups in American locations for Hallmark, Lord & Taylor and Lolli and Pops, among others. It has also hosted pop-ups in Canadian retailers ranging from Her Majesty’s Pleasure in Toronto to Holt Renfrew, all carrying unique, curated collections to keep shoppers interested and coming back. 

The company’s shop-in-store strategy also transcends to the online world — BRIKA is launching on the Lord & Taylor US website this fall and again, curated collections targeting those audiences are key. Despite being a Canadian retailer, the majority of BRIKA’s online sales have always been, and continue to be online, according to Ms. Lee Koss. 

*Photos were supplied by BRIKA.

Canadian Retail News From Around The Web: September 20, 2016

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd.

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