Icebreaker Announces Fall 2017 Canadian Expansion [Photos]

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By Mario Toneguzzi

New Zealand-based Icebreaker is planning to open another TouchLab location in Canada in September, with Edmonton’s West Edmonton Mall being the next new home for the merino clothing retailer.

It will be the 10th store in Canada. 

The company opened a location in Ottawa’s CF Rideau Centre in May which it says is representative of the next generation of stores it plans to roll out across the country.

“The same look will be used in West Edmonton Mall and future rollouts,” Justin Walford, the company’s general manager for North America, told Retail-Insider.

Walford says the company is looking for spaces between 1,100 and 1,300 square feet to provide the retailer with an opportunity to connect with “what we deem are our urban adventurers.”

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“We are looking at the possibility of opening (more stores). It comes down to the right lease, the right timing, location. Opening one to two stores per year as we move forward,” he says. 

“Our primary goal is to open between August and September when we can kind of launch with our fall season and have a good run-up to Christmas.”

The company has more than 60 “shop-in-shops” in Canada, smaller locations within other stores, that drive a really healthy core business for Icebreaker, he says.

“They’re across the country. A really broad distribution . . . They give us the opportunity to actually connect with our core consumer. An outdoor, oriented consumer and some of them also fringe into more of an urban space,” explains Walford.

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“But what we’re trying to do at our stores is open complementary locations that provide really the absolute best experience of Icebreaker. That’s why we call them TouchLabs. It’s about touching, feeling, experiencing the brand and the product that we make. And we’re doing it increasingly across the country.”  

The first store in Canada was established about 7 ½ years ago in Montreal. 

Recently, the New Zealand-based retailer announced Greg Smith as the company’s new Global CEO. Also, Josh Vaughan took the helm as Head of Wholesale in North America and Trudie Abel was appointed the new Head of Marketing North America. 

The company, founded in 1995, now operates 32 owned and 15 partner North America retail storefronts in four countries and is sold in nearly 900 retail locations in the U.S. and Canada.

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“International sales now account for 86 per cent of Icebreaker’s overall revenue, and Icebreaker’s North American business is one of our two largest global regions,” says Walford.

“The quality and experience that Trudie, Josh, and the new marketing appointments bring reflect our focus on winning in North America, and the importance of the North American business to our future growth.”

Icebreaker merino clothing for the outdoors, technical sports and lifestyle includes underwear, mid layer garments, outerwear, socks and accessories for men, women and children. Icebreaker is based in Auckland, New Zealand, and is sold in more than 5,000 stores in 50 countries; at Icebreaker retail stores in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States and online at icebreaker.com.

*Editor's note: Oberfeld Snowcap represents Icebreaker as brokerage in Canada. 

*Photos in this article are of the new Ottawa Icebreaker, and were provided by the company. See below for two more (it's a beautiful space). 

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Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com

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