By Devon Johnson
Vancouver-based athletic apparel brand Lululemon has opened its first Canadian men's store in Toronto's west end. The 2,200 square foot space, located at 96 Ossington Avenue, is one of several retailers that have recently opened on the street, alongside names such as Shinola, Reigning Champ, and Tiger of Sweden.
The men's only store has been dubbed The Local Toronto, a neighbourhood spot where "sweat" meets "community". Lululemon describes The Local as a "new spot to grind out daily to-do's, connect with the crew, or perhaps [to] just do nothing at all".
Upon first glance, one might not realize the retail space is a Lululemon store. Missing in action is the signature red Lululemon logo - the store has opted for a small gold-coloured variation of it's logo hanging above the store's main entrance. The store blends in with Ossington Avenue's neighbouring businesses, with the front door reading 'The Local 96 Ossington Avenue'.
What makes this concept store unique is nearly half of its square footage is a dedicated 'community space', acting both as a retail store as well as a community hub for the surrounding Ossington neighbourhood. Expect The Local to house art events, screen sports games, and host ping-pong tournaments, for example.
A large bar is located along the right side of the store, where customers are offered complimentary STATION Cold Brew Coffee "on the house" upon arrival (the photo above is a glass of coffee).
This Local has an undoubtable 'cool' factor to it. On the morning of Monday, December 19 when we visited, a vinyl record player had the latest Drake album on rotation while one guest relaxed on a couch reading one of a large selection of coffee table books. At the same time, a pair of guests were playing chess on a marble chess board towards the front of the store, while other guests were playing an intense game of ping-pong on a dedicated large blue table. This concept space appears to focus less on selling clothes, and more on acting as a community hangout spot.
Taking it's name quite literally, The Local has also teamed up with local businesses to celebrate its opening. Toronto barber shop Town Barber has a station near the front entrance, where guests can receive haircuts, shaves and clean-ups. Toronto-based essential oil company Way of Will is also hosting a pop-up at the new location until January 2017, selling its selection of oils, deodorants, and skincare.
As for Lululemon apparel, there is plenty of it to choose from. The store features the largest selection of Lululemon menswear in Canada, which rivals the company's latest Yorkdale store (which features a comprehensive men's section). Yoga, running, and training gear fills the front of the store, with familiar pieces that can also be found at Lululemon's other locations across Canada.
The store also features pieces from Lululemon Lab, the company's premium line of apparel that is less focused on athletic wear, and more focused on casual wear outside the gym. Select items sold at The Local include cotton shirts, dress pants, jackets, and reversible bombers. Prices range between $60 and $450 for its core pieces.
Lululemon has undergone several major changes over the past few years, including increasingly focusing on its 'hyper-local' stores to play on it's community strengths. As e-commerce grows in Canada, brick-and-mortar stores are increasingly acting as brand statements rather than just sales-oriented spaces. Newly renovated stores, including a 10,000 square foot men's and women's Lululemon store on Queen Street West, follow this new focus where in-store community spaces rival the merchandise itself.
The company has also been increasing its focus on menswear offerings. Lululemon's Chief Financial Officer John Currie has stated that men's same store sales have been higher than the rest of the business, and that this research has refocused Lululemon's energy on producing retail spaces specifically designed for their male shopper.
'The Local' is the second Lululemon men's store in North America. In 2014, Lululemon opened it's first men's-only store in New York City's Soho. Lululemon men's store in Toronto is the first of several expected in the Canadian market.
Jeri Brodie of Aurora Realty Consultants acted on behalf of Lululemon in negotiations with the landlord. CBRE's Arlin Markowitz and Jackson Turner acted on behalf of the landlord in a lease deal, which ultimately brought Lululemon to one of Canada's trendiest retail strips.