By Craig Patterson
Value-priced Chinese variety retailer MINISO, which positions itself as a ‘Japanese lifestyle brand’, is opening stores in Canada at a faster rate than was originally anticipated as it expands into new markets. The company, which entered Canada about a year ago when it opened its first store in Vancouver, has already opened stores in four provinces and by the end of this year, it anticipates having about 100 locations coast-to-coast.
MINISO says that it plans to operate about 500 stores in Canada in the next three years — prior to making this revelation, the company was ambiguous about when it would reach the ambitious 500-store goal. MINISO’s products are branded and stores carry about 2,500 SKUs and to keep up with distribution, the company has announced it's establishing regional logistics centres in Vancouver and Toronto to keep up with the rapid store expansion, which is primarily a franchise model.
The retailer’s store expansion has certainly picked up the pace over last year. From the time that MINISO opened its first Vancouver store in April of 2017 to December of that year, the retailer had opened 12 stores in the Greater Vancouver Area. By the end of this year, MINISO anticipates operating about 30 stores in the region — up from an announced 15 locations that were anticipated near the beginning of the expansion.
MINISO now operates stores in BC, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. Its first Toronto store opened earlier in May at CF Toronto Eaton Centre, and a downtown Montreal store opened several weeks before. The Alberta market is clearly a target for the brand and it already has four stores, with three of them in Edmonton, including one at the busy West Edmonton Mall.
The company says that in Canada, its most popular items are household products and beauty products. MINISO stores carry a range of items that also include electronics, clothing, toys, underwear and other accessories, with prices between $2.99 and $34.99. The store is therefore affordable to almost everyone, giving it a broad appeal. MINISO’s products are also considered to be of exceptional quality for their price points, and the retailer could take market share from other variety retailers and even possibly ‘dollar retailers’ operating in this country.
MINISO 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.
Some have accused MINISO of being a ‘copycat’ of the other Japanese brands. MINISO itself now has a ‘copycat’ competitor in Canada — Mumuso opened its first Canadian store in Vancouver several months ago just a few doors down from MINISO’s location on W. 41st Avenue in the city’s affluent Kerrisdale neighbourhood. Mumuso, which claims to be based out of Korea, but is actually Chinese, features products, branding and pricing that is remarkably similar to MINISO, save for branding that is green instead of red. Some have noted that packaging on some of Mumuso’s items is similar to that of L’Occitane en Provence, which offers skin care and other items at a considerably higher price point.
Mumuso’s Canadian expansion hasn’t been quite as rapid as MINISO — Mumuso, which opened its first store over the winter, appears to currently be operating stores in Vancouver’s Kerrisdale as well as at the Aberdeen Centre in Richmond, just south of Vancouver.
We’ll continue to periodically report on MINISO’s Canadian expansion, as it represents one of the most ambitious retailers to have entered Canada in recent memory.