By Craig Patterson
Popular Montreal-based fashion brand Pajar, known particularly for its boots and outerwear, has opened its first two standalone stores. The company is expanding its distribution by testing a direct-to-consumer model.
One store is located at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre in a 1,340 square foot retail space next to luxury watch brand Breitling. Pajar replaced a Nine West location which closed several months ago with the chain’s other Canadian units, and will remain open for several months time to test out the market.
The other store is at the Premium Outlets Montreal in Mirabel, which is considered to be one of Canada’s top outlet malls in terms of brand matrix. That store, as well, is a temporary lease, and permanent locations could be next for the brand if consumers are receptive to the new retail model.
Both stores feature Pajar’s ’DNA’ according to Michel Golbert, including various Canadian heritage/lifestyle/brand images, as well as special seating and even an upside-down toboggan in each store. The history of the company is recognized in the stores with images of the founding Golbert family in the 1920’s-40’s selling shoes in Paris where they lived prior to moving to Canada. To this day, Pajar remains an international business with distribution in more than 40 countries, and the company produces nearly a million pairs of boots annually.
Pajar is expanding into direct-to-consumer retail stores in an effort to further gain brand awareness while showcasing Pajar’s expansive line of products which are also wholesaled in retailers nationally. Its standalone stores feature some product exclusives in a curated environment that will “reflect the brand’s DNA” according to Michel Golbert, Vice President of Pajar and grandson of the company’s founder.
Brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle (or JLL, formerly ‘Northwest Atlantic’) represents Pajar.
Pajar, which is still family-owned, is known particularly for its high-quality footwear and outerwear. The company was founded in Montreal in 1963 by Paul Golbert. and as the story has it, Mr. Golbert found the inspiration for the company’s name by using the first letters of his name, his son’s name and his wife’s name, (PAul, JAcques, and Rachel), respectively.
Pajar has expansive distribution in upscale retailers across the country such as Harry Rosen, Holt Renfrew, Nordstrom, Browns Shoes and David’s Footwear, and the new stores should expand Pajar’s brand awareness in order to gain market share across all sales channels.
The company’s history includes some innovation — for example, it created its popular Zig-Zag’ boot which is an ‘apres-ski’ item featuring a centre-zip and sheepskin lining. That invention helped Pajar become the official provider for the Canadian Alpine Ski Team in 1989.
The ‘Pajar Canada Heritage Premium Collection’ is manufactured in the same factory that Paul Golbert opened in Montreal’s ‘Plateau’ area when he first became a producer of Canadian footwear in 1973. Boots are lined with 100% genuine sheepskin, and are guaranteed to keep feet warm in temperatures as low as -40°C, according to the company.
The Pajar Sport collection includes urban performance and casual street wear that is manufactured in Pajar’s global facilities in Italy, Portugal, and Asia. The collection combines seam-sealed premium waterproof leather and textile uppers comfort rated to -30 C. The Oslo Apres Ski Collection, handcrafted in Italy, features genuine fur uppers including Fox, Rabbit, and Goat fur along with the hydro-repellent leathers, and seam-sealed construction.
Other Pajar collections include outerwear such as foldable rain boots, a wide variety of winter coats for men and women, socks, belts, bags, and hiking boots.
Michel Golbert said that once the Pajar retail concept is perfected, permanent Pajar stores may be rolled-out across the country. It’s part of an effort to grow the brand, which already has considerable distribution and awareness both domestically as well as internationally.
Several other well-known Canadian outerwear brands have expanded their operations beyond wholesale distribution by opening stores. Montreal-based Mackage began an expansion in late 2015 that now includes stores in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and New York City, with a Calgary store at CF Chinook Centre in the works for this fall. Canada Goose opened its first standalone store in the world at Yorkdale in the fall of 2016, with plans to operate more than 20 stores globally by the year 2020. Last year Montreal-based Moose Knuckles also opened its first concept store at Yorkdale and most recently at Premium Outlets Montreal — the company confirms that more are on the way as negotiations continue. Most recently, Montreal-based boot brand Anfibio has confirmed that it will be opening its first ever store in November of this year, and we’ll be reporting on this further in Retail Insider this week.