By Craig Patterson
Montreal-based footwear and accessory retailer Aldo has unveiled a one-of-a-kind store location on Toronto’s Queen Street West. It could be the beginning for Aldo to open uniquely localized stores in selected cities around the world, as it steps away from its traditional store format that has been replicated in thousands of locations globally.
The store has been dubbed “Aldo Alley” by the company. “Often hidden, intriguing and ever-changing, the alley way expresses a neighborhood’s vitality. Queen Street West being such a diverse cultural hub, we wanted our store to reflect the area and its community”, said Caroline Poirier, Design Director, Brand Environments at the Aldo Group. “Our ambition was to create a space where consumers could not only connect with our brand and products, but also with the artistic and architectural influences that are unique to Queen Street West.”
Located at 349 Queen Street West, the renovated “Aldo Alley” store is a nod to the nearby Graffiti Alley that is popular amongst locals and tourists for Instagram-worthy photos, not to mention graffiti throughout the area that is known for its gritty texture that has been gentrifying over the years as large national and international retailers open in the area.
At the centre of the updated Aldo store is a sculptural ‘tree’ that was painted by Italian artist Enrico Marcato specifically for the renovated space. Mr. Marcato flew to Toronto from Italy to create the piece, as well as the colourful mural that now adorns the Queen Street store front above the entrance doors. The store’s artwork is described as having “a blend of strong colours and universal symbols conveying freedom, cheerfulness and lightheartedness”.
As with most locations, the renovated Queen Street Aldo store carries ladies and men’s footwear, handbags and accessories. The store also features the company’s efficiency technology that allows for pre-ordering of shoes, as well as ‘endless shelf’ technology that allows sales associates to see what’s in stock in the store. Several video screens can be found throughout.
The store’s interior is different than that of a typical Aldo store — customized furniture and ambient lighting characterize the space, which was designed to be flexible. The modular nature of some fixtures, including shoe racks, allow for modification if desired. Playful furniture can be found in the new space as well, including informal display tables and chairs that can be moved around with ease.
Four ‘areas’ have been created in the store, according to Aldo. These include “the door step” where ladies’ and men’s footwear are displayed, the “garden” section for consumers to try-on products around the tree sculpture, the “workshop” which includes the cash counter and accessories display fixture, and the “back yard”, which is an area of the store dedicated to handbags.
The overall design is meant to localize the store’s location in Toronto, and more Aldo stores in global cities could see similarly localized treatments, according to the company. Aldo wouldn’t yet discuss what markets might see similar stores, and is first seeking feedback from its experimental Toronto location. “Art is a vessel that connects and unites people as a global community,” according to Aldo, with founder Aldo Bensadoun and his family known to be avid collectors.