By Craig Patterson
Iconic Canadian footwear and fashion brand Sorel, headquartered in London, Ontario, has opened its first standalone retail store in downtown Toronto. The store’s launch coincides with the opening of the Toronto International Film Festival, and it’s already seeing crowds that are congregating in the area. Sorel is the latest brand to attempt to expand its brand awareness by adding retail to its operational mix, and its King Street location will be open until mid-January of 2019.
The Sorel store opened last week at 356 King Street West, and is part of the podium of the TIFF Bell Lightbox complex which also includes theatres and restaurant venues that are frequented during the film festival which began last week. The location certainly makes sense, given that Sorel is the official footwear brand for the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.
"The opening of a dedicated retail space in Canada is an exciting moment for Sorel. This gives us a strong platform to celebrate our Brand and allow consumers to see our full selection of year-round, function-first fashion footwear," said David Brulé, General Manager, Sorel Canada. "Through our partnership with the Toronto International Film Festival we are able to bring this unique and unexpected shopping experience to the market. Combining Sorel’s heritage and the buzz that surrounds TIFF, this partnership is a natural fit between two outstanding brands that will generate energy and excitement for the season."
The store spans almost 1,000 square feet and features an expanse of glass facing onto busy King Street West proving exceptional exposure. Sorel is known particularly for its winter boots though it also manufactures footwear for all seasons. The new store, launched during a heat wave in the city, showcases “an elevated assortment of function-first fashion footwear. From booties and sneakers, to wedges and block heels, SOREL has everything you need to carry you from day to night in any season,” according to the company.
The Toronto International Film Festival is considered to be one of the world’s leading festivals and as such, some of the world’s biggest stars are in attendance. The Sorel store’s location is front and centre and when we visited, it was packed with shoppers that were looking and buying — there were also several black Sorel shopping bags noticed on the street, speaking to the power of pop-up retail.
Sorel is the latest brand to open its own stores, and the trend of brands expanding into retail is more pronounced now than ever. Numerous Canadian brands are also opening their own stores, including competitors such as Montreal-based Pajar which, last week, also opened its first retail stores with a location at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre as well as at Premium Outlets Montreal in Mirabel. Outerwear brands are another example of brands getting into retail with companies such as Canada Goose, Moose Knuckles and Mackage all expanding their operations by opening standalone retail stores in Canada as well as internationally.
While some multi-brand retailers have expressed concerns about brands branching off by opening their own stores, brands such as Sorel are showcasing their wares in dedicated environments that allow them to showcase their wares with dedicated staff. The idea is to increase overall brand awareness while still driving traffic to a brand’s wholesalers, as well as any dedicated boutiques and e-commerce sites. In the case of Sorel, there are currently no plans to open other locations at this time, as the company tests the waters with its new downtown Toronto concept store.