'Smartwool' Opens 1st Standalone Canadian Store [Photos]

By Mario Toneguzzi

Colorado-based Smartwool couldn’t have picked a better place to open its first branded Canadian store - Banff, located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies.

Smartwool caters to all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts with its unique Merino wool products as well as a selection of Timberland footwear.

Randy Scriber, store manager of Smartwool Banff, said the store opened March 24 on the busy Banff Avenue.

“It’s a very busy street,” said Scriber. “It’s a branded Smartwool store and Smartwool is like a Merino wool brand that originated in Colorado - in Steamboat Colorado actually which is also another little ski town very similar to Banff.

“And that includes socks, base layer, technical apparel for running, biking, hiking, cross country skiing, ski touring, downhill skiing, camping. The whole gamut. But it also includes the lifestyle line which is also using wool but it’s adding in that kind of mountain lifestyle look. We have an item that’s super Canadian-looking called the Anchor in the red and black plaid. It’s like a big wool sweater that’s got buttons down it and looks very Canadian. Iconic piece. A lot of people know us as a sock and base layer brand but we have actually quite a broad range of apparel as well.”

The store has about 1,000 square feet of retail space.

Other brands in the store include United by Blue and Proof Eyewear

On its website Smartwool says its story started on a rugged Colorado ski slope with the belief that toes didn’t have to be cold.

“One simple pair of Merino socks challenged the conventional wisdom and forever changed the way outdoor enthusiasts looked at their feet. It’s not just about the Merino, though. It’s what we do with it that makes Smartwool different. For over 20 years, we’ve been pushing the boundaries of Merino to create smarter, more capable products from head to toe,” says the company.

“At the heart and soul of every SmartWool product is the amazing fiber we use: nature’s finest Merino wool. Used properly, we think Merino wool is the best fiber available for outdoor apparel — it manages moisture better than cotton, is smarter than synthetics and is more comfortable in any weather condition. In our hands, it becomes extraordinary.”

Scriber said Banff is a great place for Smartwool to open its first Canadian store because it has such a captive audience.

“You have a lot of people walking up and down the street and there’s a lot of people with disposable income because they’re on a vacation in a pretty expensive place. It’s a good place to open a store,” he said. “Obviously you have to carry the right items. You can’t just throw up a store and carry just anything. It’s been great since we opened.

“We built a pretty beautiful space and that’s what we were about. We weren’t just about building a retail space. We wanted to build a space that actually spoke to the area. The idea was to bring the outside inside. We have a little stone path around the store that you’re kind of like still walking on the trail. We have a very large projector doing a screen that Sherpas Cinema created for us. It’s a little six minute and 45 second flyovers of all the local mountains. It’s a very mountain lifestyle feeling in the store and a little like the outside being brought inside. You can kind of get on the trail in the store you’re shopping.”

Scriber said the brands in the store support that as well. Brands fit the mountain lifestyle feel and appeal.

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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