Levi’s Expands Canadian Operations as it Unveils Canadian Flagship Store [Photos]

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By Craig Patterson

San Francisco-based fashion brand Levi’s, known particularly for its denim fashions, has opened its Canadian flagship at CF Toronto Eaton Centre. The impressive space features customization and localization, and the store is the only one in Canada to carry the ‘Levi’s Authorized Vintage’ line. Levi’s has been expanding its Canadian operations over the past couple of years by opening direct-to-consumer stores, which are said to be growing the brand’s overall awareness, not to mention increasing sales. 

“The heart of downtown Toronto, with its diversity, culture and vibrancy, is an ideal home for the Levi’s® brand,” said Roy Bagattini, Executive Vice President and President of Levi Strauss Americas. “We are elevating the consumer experience by putting customization front and centre. The heartbeat of the store is a Tailor Shop, where customers can have their favourite denim products altered and customized by a team of specialized tailors, as well as custom T-shirt printing.”

The Tailor Shop Mr. Bagattini mentioned is one of the customization features in the new store. Several of Levi’s Canadian stores now carry 'Tailor Shops' — over the past couple of years, Levi’s has been expanding its presence in Canada with standalone retail stores, several of which include these. Levi’s debuted its first two Canadian locations with tailor shops in November of 2016, at Toronto’s CF Sherway Gardens and at Square One in Mississauga. Two Alberta stores were added in the summer of 2017 and it’s been such a hit that more have since been added. 

Levi’s tailor shops offer custom embroidery, tailoring, hemming and a wide selection of pins and patches, addressing the trend towards product customization. Levi’s describes its tailor shops as having a “team of specialized craftsmen who will help you personalize your favourite denim pieces,” with customization spaces located at the back of each store.

The new CF Toronto Eaton Centre Levi’s store’s interior features about 5,300 square feet of retail space on Level 1, in part of what was formerly a location for US fashion retailer Express. The Levi’s store interior features a ‘natural look and feel’ that pays homage to the brand’s commitment to quality and sustainability, according to Levi’s. On a back wall near the store’s dressing rooms, for example, is a water bottle refill station with signage discussing how Levi’s aims to conserve and recycle water as part of its denim finishing. The range of product in the store includes Levi’s lines Made & Crafted®, Levi’s® Red Tab line for men and women and, new to Canada, Levi’s® Authorized Vintage. 

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The Levi’s Authorized Vintage offering is particularly notable, given that the CF Toronto Eaton Centre store is the only one in Canada to carry the range of pre-worn pairs of jeans and trucker jackets that have been carefully remastered. The idea is to offer the “most authentic, most everlasting vintage on the market – made by Levi’s® from start to finish”, according to the company. 

The city of Toronto is a theme throughout the store, which includes a city skyline and wording on T-shirts, trucker jackets, pins and patches, paying homage to the city that many are saying is having its ‘moment’ (Drake, The Weekend and Megan Markle have all helped). One Levi’s jacket style features the word ‘Toronto’ in a marquee sign reminiscent of that of the iconic Honest Ed’s store which shuttered at the end of 2016. These products are said to be flying off the shelves, and the Tailor Shop is also said to be doing tremendous business in just its first week of operation. 

The CF Toronto Eaton Centre Levi’s store also features tech-supported touchpoints such as a call button in the fitting rooms allowing customers to directly request additional sizing and assistance without leaving the room. 

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Levi’s has spent a considerable sum to advertise the new store as part of its “We Are Toronto” advertising campaign. For the past month, the Dundas TTC subway station adjacent to CF Toronto Eaton Centre has been ‘taken over’ with advertising promoting the new store, as well as various other billboards, a wrap of the 501 Queen Streetcar, and advertising throughout CF Toronto Eaton Centre which boasts more than 50-million annual visitors. As well, geo-targeted mobile ads were used to promote the new store.

 Suzanne Sears, Founder of leading retail recruitment firm  Best Retail Careers International INc. , holds up a Toronto-themed Trucker Jacket. Photo: Craig Patterson 

Suzanne Sears, Founder of leading retail recruitment firm Best Retail Careers International INc., holds up a Toronto-themed Trucker Jacket. Photo: Craig Patterson 

Brands are increasingly going direct-to-consumer with stores and Levi’s is no exception — the company confirms that about a third of all global sales are from its stores, and the company has already opened several enhanced locations that include tailor shops in-store. Levi’s is expected to continue with its expansion plans, while also expanding its wholesale network that includes major retailers such as Hudson’s Bay. Levi’s operates a network of stores in Canada as well as internationally, boasting more than 2,800 stores globally. Levi’s was founded in San Francisco in 1853 by German entrepreneur Levi Strauss. 

Levi’s is seeing remarkable growth in Canada — sales have reportedly doubled since 2012 to more than $100-million. That’s what Chip Bergh, CEO of Levi Strauss told Marina Strauss (no relation) of the Globe & Mail in a paywalled article last week. Mr. Bergh also mentioned that the company’s women’s sales have tripled since 2015, and that the average age of its consumer has decreased over the past seven years or so since he came on as head of the company. It would appear that the company’s efforts to reach out to younger shoppers is paying off, including an expansive range of casual fashions as well as with its in-store customization and other initiatives that make Levi's stores more experiential. 

Craig Patterson, now based in Toronto, is the founder and Editor-in-Chief Retail Insider. He's also a retail and real estate consultant, retail tour guide and public speaker. 

Follow him on Twitter @RetailInsider_, LinkedIn at Craig Patterson, or email him at: craig@retail-insider.com.

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