By Craig Patterson
New York City-based fashion brand Kenneth Cole is expanding its wholesale and retail network in Canada, which includes opening standalone stores in major Canadian cities. The company has just unveiled its first standalone store in Canada on Queen Street West in Toronto with a second location already confirmed, and this fall 16 men’s shop-in-stores will debut at Hudson’s Bay stores across the country.
The 1,800 square foot Toronto flagship, located at 315 Queen Street West, carries ready to wear clothing, footwear and accessories for both men and women under the Kenneth Cole New York label. The store’s interior is punctuated with raw steel, concrete, brick and glass, aiming to create a welcoming environment which also speaks to the Kenneth Cole brand. Kennth Cole joins a rapidly growing roster of national and international brands that have located standalone stores on the more ‘popular’ section of busy Queen Street West. Ryan McGrath of Northwest Atlantic acted on behalf of Kenneth Cole in the lease deal, with Brandon Gorman of Cushman & Wakefield acting on behalf of the landlord (The Pearl Group).
The store’s interior references Kenneth Cole’s "trailer story” — designer Kenneth Cole began selling women's shoes in the back of a production trailer in December 1982, and the Toronto store’s interior is a nod to the brand’s heritage. That includes the “use of clean lines, strong artistic works and purposeful messaging,” according to the company.
Kenneth Cole has already secured a second store location at Vaughan Mills just north of Toronto, according to Daryle Perrin, Vice President of Licensed Brands, of Haggar Canada. That store is scheduled to open in September. Kenneth Cole signed an expanded agreement with Haggar Canada Co. to manufacture, market and distribute men's and women's apparel and distribute men's and women's footwear in this country.
He said that the Queen Street location “represents modern street front retail” in an area that is extremely diverse. Toronto’s bustling Entertainment District is directly to the south, and the area is seeing a population explosion that is adding thousands of new residents to the area. To the north is the Art Gallery of Ontario, Ontario Collage of Art and Design and neighbourhoods such as Kensington Market and Chinatown, and a few blocks to the east is the City’s Financial District, which is considered to be Canada’s most important business address.
Mr. Perrin said that more standalone Kenneth Cole locations are expected in Canada’s larger cities. The Vancouver market is strong and includes a substantial tourist component, while the more ‘traditional’ Calgary market is another example of a city where the brand has taken hold.
Kenneth Cole’s standalone store expansion is part of a greater effort to expand the brand further into Canada. This fall, Kenneth Cole will unveil 16 ‘soft shops’ at Hudson’s Bay stores nationwide, recognizing the importance of the retailer to the brand, not to mention Hudson’s Bay being the remaining traditional department store retailer in Canada. The soft shops will include some of the design elements seen in the Queen Street flagship, including the use of raw steel in its fixtures.
Hudson’s Bay also carries Kenneth Cole’s men’s footwear line in most of its stores, and Kenneth Cole women’s footwear is now carried in 10 Bay stores, according to Mr. Perrin, with plans to further expand the brand into Hudson’s Bay as well as other independent retailers in the country.
Kenneth Cole’s fashions are sometimes referred to as being an ‘Urban Uniform’ which features mix-and-match pieces made from fabrics that are intended to be comfortable for a busy person on the move. Designs are ‘modern classic’, which should resound with downtown Toronto residents as well as many Canadians that are seeking out reasonably priced, versatile fashions.
Online shopping is also an important component to Kenneth Cole’s business and as part of its Canadian expansion, its website is also seeing an expanded focus. Ultimately the goal is to be an omnichannel retailer with components of direct-to-consumer, wholesale and e-commerce.
We’ll be following this brand as it continues to expand its presence in Canada.