By Craig Patterson
Vancouver-based ‘technical cashmere’ brand Kit and Ace has reduced its store count to just six locations and one coffee shop, after closing all of its international locations in the spring of 2017.
Kit and Ace launched in July of 2014 by the family of Lululemon Athletica Inc. founder Chip Wilson, with wife Shannon Wilson and son J.J. Wilson heading up the company, with Chip Wilson initially quietly being involved in the background. The Kit and Ace concept revolves around men’s and women’s fashions that include a percentage of material being cashmere, in a technical material that is also machine washable. It’s owned by parent company Hold It All Inc., a holding company owned by the Wilsons.
Kit and Ace had big plans for Canada — in April of 2015, J.J. Wilson told Retail Insider that the company planned to open 15 Canadian flagships in 10 months. A building was even purchased on Yonge Street in Toronto with the intention of opening a store.
A global expansion was also in the works. The company expanded its base of stores quickly after its summer of 2014 launch, which began with pop-up stores in various Canadian and, soon, international centres. Longer-term leases were eventually signed as Kit and Ace grew to more than 60 stores globally and 700 employees in early 2016.
By March of 2017, Kit and Ace’s store count was reduced to 41 stores, prior to an April 2017 announcement that all but nine Canadian stores would remain open.
Since then, more Canadian locations have closed as well — a West Edmonton Mall unit shuttered last month, and a pop-up at Calgary’s CF Chinook Centre closed the same week. Kit and Ace has various temporary locations that have closed in Canada including at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre and at Winnipeg’s CF Polo Park — the strategy was to gain awareness and gage the market with physical storefronts, which became numerous.
Kit and Ace currently operates six locations — two of those are in Vancouver, Two are in Toronto, and there’s one store each in Calgary and Oakville, Ontario. The Vancouver Gastown flagship recently relocated to 151 Water Street from 165 Water Street due to a redevelopment.
The other Vancouver store is in Vancouver’s popular Kitsilano area at 2235 W. 4th avenue. The Toronto stores are both street-front spaces on popular streets — a ‘Mink Mile’ store is located at 102 Bloor Street West, which also houses a coffee concept called ‘Sorry Coffee’. The other Toronto store is at 779 Queen Street West on trendy ‘West Queen West’. The Oakville location is at 171 Lakeshore Road East and the Calgary location is at Mount Royal Village, a First Capital Realty-owned property just south of the downtown core that is about to announce some new retail tenants.
A request for comment from Kit and Ace was unanswered, but staff in its Toronto Bloor Street store noted that the company's spring lines have arrived and that it's 'business as usual' as far as they are aware. While the Bloor Street store is often relatively quiet, its 'Sorry Coffee' section at the back is often packed with patrons.