American jewellery brand ALEX AND ANI continues to open Canadian stores, which it says is a response to exceptional consumer demand. The company opened its first freestanding Canadian stores about 18 months ago, and it also has a considerable wholesale presence in retailers nationwide, including Hudson’s Bay.
ALEX AND ANI’s first Canadian store opened in December of 2015 at Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket, Ontario, just north of Toronto. Several days later, a Yorkdale Shopping Centre boutique opened in Toronto. Four more stores have since opened — in March of 2016, ALEX AND ANI opened at Mississauga’s Square One, followed by two stores in August of 2016 at CF Rideau Centre in Ottawa and at CF Carrefour Laval, north of Montreal. Most recently, the downtown Montreal Eaton Centre saw the opening of a location, which is already seeing considerable pedestrian traffic.
Responding to interview questions, ALEX AND ANI’S Vice President of International Business Development, Omar Ajaj, discussed the company’s expansion in Canada. When asked why the company initially decided to open freestanding Canadian units, he said, “we were prompted by consumer demand for what our company offers. By this, we mean that our consumers want more than our product”. ALEX AND ANI’s value proposition is unique — it’s selling more than just a product. When discussing why there’s a demand for the brand in Canada, Mr. Ajaj said, "They are interested in what we do as a humanitarian company. This encompasses our missions to support our planet, the people on it, and the communities we live in. Customers are no longer fixated on consuming and collecting objects; they buy things with meaning and purpose. We connect with our customers on a different level and the Canadian market is a part of this.”
While ALEX AND ANI’s Canadian stores are all within enclosed shopping malls. Mr. Ajaj noted that in the company’s global portfolio, some are on urban street-fronts. In seeking out real estate, the company typically targets spaces in the 800 square foot to 1,200 square foot range, he noted — with high-traffic areas being a priority.
When asked about ALEX AND ANI’s plans for more stores in Canada, Mr. Ajaj noted that the company is in the process of strategizing. "As we mature in the market we want to be accessible to our consumers. We anticipate having distribution throughout Canada but timing is not fully defined yet.” The expansion will be calculated, including taking into consideration its wholesale distribution. "Expanding our retail store footprint is a definite part of our 5-year plan,” said Mr. Ajaj, going on to say, "The amount of stores will be defined by the market and our other retail partnerships. As we build our presence along the west coast in the US we will explore the Vancouver market in tandem.”
Founded in Rhode Island in 2004, the brand is known for its "eco-conscious, positive energy products that adorn the body, enlighten the mind and empower the spirit", according to its website. Designer Carolyn Rafaelian founded the company, and the brand's name comes from a combination of the first names of Ms. Rafaelian's two daughters. Designs include bangles, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and rings. Remarkably, bracelets feature a patented sliding mechanism that replaces the traditional clasp, making each bracelet 'one-size-fits-all'. All ALEX AND ANI products are made in the United States.
The company first came to national attention in 2004 when it produced a necklace featuring an apple for Gwyneth Paltrow, following the birth of her daughter, Apple, leading to a large number of orders of similar merchandise.