Quebec Start-Up Berso Aims to Disrupt Baby Retail Market

By Megan Harman

A new Quebec-based start-up called Berso is striving to shake up the baby retail market with a new concept that combines e-commerce with brick and mortar retail.

Berso aims to be a one-stop shop for maternity and baby-related merchandise, catering to tech-savvy millennials who are starting families.  The company designs and manufactures products, in addition to operating an e-commerce and retail division through which Berso sells its own brand of products as well as other major brands.

“I saw that no one in this market was catering to millennials, and I thought there was a good opportunity,” says Martin Lamarche, president and CEO of Berso.

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Recognizing that millennials increasingly do their shopping online, Lamarche saw the importance of creating a user-friendly e-commerce platform. However, he also wanted to tap into the generation’s tendency to socialize and engage with their community on a regular basis.  So, he designed a retail concept that combines the best of both worlds.

Specifically, Berso stores serve as not only a shopping destination, but also a gathering place for parents, with a coffee bar, yoga classes, and occasional speaking events.

"We want to build a community around our brand,” says Lamarche. "Moms can share their experiences together."

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In addition to browsing merchandise in store, customers can use tablets available within the stores to explore additional merchandise online, and can order items to be delivered directly to their homes. Customers can also make use of personal shoppers who will help them find what they’re looking for, within their specific budget.

"E-commerce will be part of our brick and mortar experience. We'll have iPads everywhere,” Lamarche says. "The shopping experience is very important."

Berso carries a wide variety of items for babies and expectant mothers, such as clothing, furniture, strollers, toys and accessories. Approximately 70% of the merchandise carried is comprised of Berso’s own brand, with the remaining 30% comprised of other major brands. The company focuses primarily on mid-to-high-end merchandise.

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"It's going to be a one-stop shop of maternity and apparel and accessories,” says Lamarche. "You'll have everything you need.”

Berso plans to open five stores in Quebec over the next three years, before expanding to other provinces and countries. The first location is poised to open in Montreal’s South Shore in March or April 2019, coinciding with the launch of Berso’s e-commerce website.

Berso is working with Tony Flanz of brokerage Think Retail to explore additional locations, with a focus on spaces that are between 10,000 to 15,000 square feet in size, and which have ample parking.

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Megan Harman is a business reporter based in Toronto. She writes about topics including retail, financial services and technology. Megan covers Toronto’s retail industry through her blog Retail Realm (torontoretail.wordpress.com). Follow her on Twitter at @meganmharman.

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