Value-priced Chinese variety retailer MINISO, which positions itself as a ‘Japanese lifestyle brand’, has initiated its Canadian expansion in the British Columbia Lower Mainland with plans to expand nationally in the coming months. The company confirms that it plans to open as many as 500 stores in Canada in the coming years, and its initial target markets will be Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.
Yi Ma, vice-president of business development for MINISO, discussed MINISO’s entry into Canada, which initially has involved opening corporately-owned stores. On April 15 of this year, the company quietly opened its first Canadian store at 1256 W. Broadway in Vancouver, followed by a store at Tsawwassen Mills in May. On Saturday, August 12, MINISO unveiled its Canadian flagship — a 4,900 square foot location at 550 Granville Street, which is across from Holt Renfrew and once housed a retail location for Grand & Toy.
Stores will continue to open in the Lower Mainland, according to Mr. Ma, including stores in Richmond (at 8010 Saba Road) and at Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby campus (8920 University High Street), with intentions to open about 15 stores over the next 15 months. At the same time, MINISO is working on lease deals in Toronto and Montreal, and has already secured two Ontario locations that will open in October of this year — one in the heart of downtown Toronto, and another at Stone Road Mall in Guelph.
He noted that MINISO is seeking a strong joint venture partner as part of its Canadian expansion, utilizing a licensing model in order to assist with growth. That will assist MINISO with its plans to open between 30 and 50 Canadian locations over the next 12 months. After establishing operations in Vancouver/Toronto/Montreal, MINISO will examine other markets and is seeking retail spaces that are ideally in the 1,300 square foot to 5,000 square foot range.
The company’s goal is to eventually operate about 500 locations in Canada, potentially providing stiff competition to several homegrown retailers including Dollarama. MINISO might be compared most closely to Japanese retailer Daiso, which currently operates one store location at Aberdeen Centre in Richmond, BC. MINISO’s price point is slightly higher than Dollarama and Daiso, however, with the majority of items priced between $3 and $5.
MINISO’s product offerings are also extensive, including home goods, kitchenware, underwear, cosmetics, toys and even electronics. Products are branded by name and are considered to be of exceptional quality for the price.
The company was co-founded in 2013 by Japanese designer Miyake Junya and Chinese entrepreneur Ye Guo Fu, and is headquartered in Guangzhou, China. MINSO’s goal is to open 6,000 stores globally by 2020, averaging 80 to 100 store openings per month. MINISO's signage and branding appears similar to that of fast-fashion Japanese chain UNIQLO — which isn’t a surprise, considering that MINISO openly names itself as a competitor to UNIQLO as well as Japanese variety retailer MUJI. All three are now present in Canada, with UNIQLO and MUJI set to debut their first Vancouver/Lower Mainland locations this fall.
*Photos in this article are of the new Vancouver MINISO flagship at 550 Granville Street, and were taken by Lee Rivett on August 15, 2017.