By Craig Patterson
Every year now we put together a list of international brands that entered Canada by opening storefronts. The following is an overview of the retailers that entered Canada in 2018, as well as a description of each that includes updates.
About 30 international brands entered Canada in 2018 by opening standalone stores — that’s down a bit from a record-breaking 2017 when more than 50 international brands entered the country. As a comparison, we counted 21 brands that entered Canada in 2016, 28 in 2015, and 20 in 2014 when we began counting.
The following list of 2018 international retailers that entered Canada is ordered roughly from the beginning of the year until December, and we’ve included a brief description of each retailer as well as a link to a Retail Insider article if we wrote about it.
Winter 2018: The year got off to a somewhat slow start with several international brands entering the country by opening stores.
Mumuso: In early 2018, Chinese value retailer Mumuso, which positions itself as a “Korean” brand, opened its first store in Canada at 2120 W. 41 Avenue in Vancouver’s Kerrisdale neighbourhood. The value-priced retailer carries a wide range of “lifestyle” items such as household products, textiles, apparel, accessories, kitchen items, bags, stationery, skincare, and cosmetics. The concept is remarkably similar to Miniso, a Chinese retailer that positions itself as a “Japanese” retailer with plans to open 500 stores, amid controversy. So far Mumuso has opened two stores in Canada, with its second being at Aberdeen Centre in Richmond BC.
TripAdvisor airport storefronts: In January of 2018, TripAdvisor chose Toronto to open its very first standalone retail concept before it quickly expanded to other airports in North America. The retail space, located in Pearson Airport’s Terminal 1 Domestic, is as much experiential as it is about the products contained within. In addition to offering travel essentials, the store includes a large, interactive screen that visitors can use to learn more about Toronto and the surrounding area. Customers can access the latest TripAdvisor reviews and traveler photos for nearby hotels, attractions and restaurants. The store opened in partnership with Atlanta-based Paradies Lagardère, which operates more than 850 stores and restaurants in 98 airports, globally.
Spring 2018: International retailers began to pick up the pace in the spring, with several major international retailers debuting their first Canadian stores.
Nordstrom Rack: Nordstrom’s off-price division Nordstrom Rack opened its first store in Canada at Vaughan Mills, north of Toronto. That was followed by stores in Calgary, downtown Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton and Mississauga. Nordstrom Rack plans to eventually open between 12 and 15 locations in Canada, and it plans to announce more stores in the near future.
ASICS: In March of 2018, Japanese athletic fashion and footwear brand ASICS opened its Canadian flagship in Toronto at 364 Queen Street West. ASICS is a Japanese multinational corporation which produces footwear and sports equipment designed for a wide range of sports. The name is an acronym for the Latin phrase anima sana in corpore sano which translates as "a healthy soul in a healthy body". Its running shoes have been ranked among the top performance footwear in the market.
Dylan’s Candy Bar: US-based candy retailer Dylan’s Candy Bar opened its first location in Canada at Toronto’s Pearson Airport in March of 2018, while at the same time announcing a distribution agreement with Hudson’s Bay and Holt Renfrew in Canada. Dylan’s Candy Bar carries a vast selection of gummies, chocolates, jelly beans, lollipops and much more. The products include Dylan’s own private label items, along with various American nostalgic favourites and imported specialty sweets. The retailer also carries a range of gifts and lifestyle items, such as toys and stuffed animals, accessories, apparel and stationary. Dylan’s has locations in several US airports as well as unique standalone locations in a handful of cities. The Toronto location is currently the only Dylan’s store in Canada.
Decathlon: The world’s largest sporting goods retailer entered Canada in April of 2018 with a store in Brossard, Quebec. More locations have subsequently been announced for Quebec City and downtown Montreal, with further plans to expand into the Ontario market this year and eventually Canada-wide.
Founded in France in 1976, Decathlon Group is the world’s largest sporting good retailer with more than 1,100 stores in more than 30 countries. It employs more than 78,000 people and boasts annual revenue of about C$15 billion. Decathlon designs, manufactures and distributes a wide range of sports-related equipment and accessories, with over 20 in-house ‘passion brands’ dedicated to different sports, and each with its own design team. Decathlon aims to make sports more accessible by offering a wide range of quality products at affordable prices. The retailer also endeavours to cater to a range of customers from beginners to professionals. Brokerage Oberfeld Snowcap’s Sylvain Charron represents Decathlon in Canada.
Atelier Cologne: L’Oreal-owned fragrance brand Atelier Cologne opened its first Canadian storefront at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre in April of 2018. The intimately-sized 625 square foot boutique features antiques throughout, as well as an attractive Venetian blue facade that appears historical.
Atelier Cologne is considered to be the first fragrance house entirely dedicated to cologne. According to the company, it has “been reinventing the world of perfume with Cologne Absolue, an entirely new olfactive family of natural, unprecedentedly long-wearing scents”. Yorkdale will be the first of several locations for Atelier Cologne in Canada, according to the company, though it remains the only standalone store in the country so far.
Smartwool: The Colorado-based fashion brand for outdoor enthusiasts opened its first store in Canada in the spring of 2018 in Banff, Alberta. Smartwool caters to all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts with its unique Merino wool products. The boutique spans about 1,000 square feet and is located on busy Banff Avenue. More locations are expected, though Banff remains the brand’s only standalone store in Canada.
Lemongrass House: Thailand-based retailer Lemongrass House, known for its expansive range of body care products, opened its first Canadian store in April of 2018 in Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhood. Included is a range of natural, handmade, premium spa products in an attractive retail space. More Lemongrass house locations are expected to open in Canada and as of press time, the Vancouver location is the only one in Canada.
Casper: In May of 2018, mattress-in-a-box brand Casper opened its first standalone store at CF Sherway Gardens in Toronto. That was followed with the opening of Casper’s Canadian flagship and Canadian corporate office on Queen Street West in Toronto. Both stores are in excess of 2,000 square feet in size and feature ‘nap houses’ displaying Casper’s mattresses, sheets and pillows, bed frames, and even dog beds.
Casper operates more than 20 ‘Sleep Shops’ across the United States and Canada, and it plans to open 200 retail stores over the next three years. In Canada, there are plans to roll-out locations in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, as well as more in the Ontario market. Casper was founded in New York City in 2014 as a direct-to-consumer online retailer and has celebrity backers including Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Adam Levine and Ashton Kutcher. The company boasts sales in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
Clinique: The Estée Lauder-owned beauty brand has been in Canadian department stores for decades, and its first standalone Canadian store opened in April of 2018 at CF Richmond Centre in suburban Vancouver. The 630 square foot boutique could be the first of multiple locations in this country, though it remains the only standalone unit so far.
Clinique launched as a subsidiary of Estée Lauder in 1968 by Evelyn Lauder, who also worked as the training director and was the first to wear the trademark white lab coat, which is now worn by Clinique staff worldwide. The brand is known for its expansive offering of beauty lines such as skin care, cosmetics and fragrances. Quality is known to be high, and prices are slightly lower than most ‘luxury brands’ carried in department store cosmetics halls.
Douchanglee: Taiwanese fashion brand Douchanglee opened its first Canadian location at West Vancouver’s Park Royal in May of 2018. Launched in 1995 by Dou Teng-huang and Zhang Li Yu-jing, the duo presented their first concept store in 2003.
The 2,500-square-foot store has elements of avant-garde and retro chic throughout with the use of stainless steel, acrylic, velvet, and leather, as its key visual elements. Canadian licensee Jack Wang brought Douchanglee to Canada after encouragement from his wife, who is a fan of the brand. He said that she found it challenging to find clothing from other brands in the Lower Mainland with a similar fit, quality and styling, prompting the entrepreneur to strike a deal with Taiwan’s Douchanglee to enter the Canadian market. More locations could follow, depending on how the Park Royal unit peforms.
Chloé: In May of 2018, French luxury brand Chloé opened its first standalone store in Canada at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre. Stone, glass and polished brass characterize the bright space, which features a series of salons housing the brand’s selection of leather goods, jewellery and accessories, footwear, as well as ready-to-wear. Chloé’s iconic powdery rose beige colour scheme can be found throughout, along with shades of white and mustard, offset with brushed or polished natural brass. Vancouver and Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville could also see locations at some point, according to the company. Chloé can also be found at selected Holt Renfrew, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom stores in Canada, with some bags also carried at La Maison Simons.
Summer 2018: International retailers continued to enter Canada, with a focus on skin care, diamonds, ice cream and fashion.
Laline: Israel-based bath/body/lifestyle retailer Laline opened its first Canadian store in June of 2018 at Toronto’s CF Sherway Gardens. The retailer has subsequently opened five other stores in Ontario, with three in the GTA and units in London and Kitchener. After securing the Ontario market, the brand is expected to expand nationally. Laline stated, “As the Canadian market is one of our main strategic markets we expect to open dozens of branches in the next few years,” and when asked about its growth plans, Laline confirmed that its “main focus for 2018-2019 is the Ontario region”.
Laline was founded in 1999 by Revital Levi and Merav Cohen in Tel Aviv, and now boasts more than 100 stores in Israel, as well as international locations in Japan, Spain and in the United States in San Francisco and Hawaii. Laline is a division of the FOX Group and according to the company, Laline targets women, men, babies and teens. Its Canadian stores have some collections tailored to the local market, with price-points being lower than luxury brands in order to become a ‘one-stop shop’ for beauty products, according to the company.
VDL: In the summer of 2018, Korean beauty company VDL opened its first standalone store in North America on ‘West Queen West’ in Toronto. At the same time, the brand launched products in retailer ‘The Face Shop’ in selected markets. VDL’s expensive product offerings include makeup (face, lip, eyes, cheeks), nail, skin care (including masks and men’s offerings), cleansing, body & hair and related beauty ‘tools’ such as foundation brushes. The line, which stands for “Violet Dream Luminous”, was founded in 2012 and it has stores in Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines, China, Hong Kong, as well as wholesale distribution in various global markets.
The stretch of ‘West Queen West’ is becoming something of a beauty destination in Toronto, with several retailers having recently opened in the area.
Kimberlite Diamond: In July of 2018, Kimberlite Diamond opened its first standalone in North America on Vancouver’s tony South Granville retail strip. The impressive looking store carries a wide range of diamonds and diamond jewellery.
Established in 1995, Kimberlite Diamond is the first definitive brand to specialize in diamond jewelry in China and is recognized as the leader in China's diamond industry with almost 700 retail locations. Kimberlite was also the first in China to follow the “quality authentication protocol” with international diamond professional organization HRD (Belgium Diamond High Council), ensuring high-quality diamonds for all Kimberlite Diamond customers.
Swaby: In July of 2018, Chicago-based Shernett Swaby opened a store called Swaby on Queen Street West in Toronto. The boutique showcases some of the boldest fashion designs we’ve seen. The concept itself is unlike anything in Canada to date. When someone purchases a garment from her brand, Swaby offers free alterations for the life of each garment and in some instances, Ms. Swaby herself will create a new design out of a garment at no additional cost. For example, a pair of pants may be turned into a skirt, lining in a garment might be replaced, or if someone’s body shape changes, garments can be modified. It’s part of an effort to make her clothing last for years by updating older pieces that might otherwise be discarded, with the longevity of garments, making Swaby both cost-effective as well as environmentally friendly.
Prices range from a bit over $100 for a simple shirt to well into the thousands for bolder designs which even include impressive evening gowns. What sets Swaby apart from other design houses is the personalization that Shernett Swaby herself provides to her clients, and she has plans to grow her business to other major centres. Toronto is likely to be the only location in Canada for the brand, and next year she says she has her heart set on opening her first store in New York City. After that, the goal is to open Swaby stores in Paris and London.
Kenneth Cole: In July of 2018, New York City-based fashion designer Kenneth Cole opened his first Canadian store on Toronto’s Queen Street West. The 1,800 square foot Toronto flagship 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.
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.
The brand plans to roll out stores across Canada over the next few years, while at the same time expanding its wholesale accounts with Hudson’s Bay, which features several shop-in-stores for Kenneth Cole.
Cauldron Ice Cream: Popular gourmet California ice cream chain Cauldron Ice Cream opened its first Canadian location in Toronto this summer. Toronto-based franchise holding company W&S Canada Corp. plans to eventually open several other locations in Toronto as well.
Cauldron, which launched in 2015, specializes in liquid nitrogen ice cream – a trendy new way of making small batches of ice cream instantaneously. Cauldron offers a variety of unique flavours such as Earl Grey Lavender, Milk and Cereal, S’mores, H20 Rose, Pineapple Express, and Red Velvet.
The Toronto expansion was Cauldron’s first outside of California. Cauldron Ice Cream has partnered with franchise development company Fransmart to grow the brand and is currently looking to expand into other major markets, as well, by partnering with experienced multi-unit food service operators.
Catimini: Upscale European children’s clothing retailer Catimini known for its colourful and fashionable designs, broke into the Canadian market in August with a new store in Vancouver with potential for expansion to other cities.
Kidz Global Apparel Ltd., the licensed distributor for Catimini products in Canada, opened the first Canadian Catimini store in Vancouver’s Kerrisdale neighbourhood. The premium brand, which was established in 1972 in France, carries clothing for children ranging in age from newborn to 14 years old. Catimini has approximately 145 locations in more than 20 countries around the world, including both standalone stores and sales points within department stores.
Fall/Winter 2018: The season was off to a good start with a focus on European and US brands opening stores.
Oasis Fashion: In September of 2018, UK women’s fashion brand Oasis Fashion opened its first Canadian store in Halifax on Spring Garden Road. The store is 1,660 square feet in size and is divided into two sections: the front of the store is designed to be a bright space which showcases casual daytime styles; whereas the back of the store houses dresses and eveningwear.
Launched in 1991 in the U.K., Oasis specializes in trendy, colourful clothing geared towards women between the ages of 18 and 50, with a focus on consumers in their late 20s. The Canadian licensee is already actively looking at expanding the Oasis Fashion franchise into other Canadian markets. Currently, he’s most interested in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, with a focus on locations within shopping centres. Most Oasis stores are between 1,500 and 2,000 square feet in size. Oasis Fashion is also exploring the possibility of establishing concessions within Hudson’s Bay or Nordstrom stores.
UNTUCKit: New York City-based men’s casual brand UNTUCKit, known particularly for its shirts that are meant to be worn untucked, opened its first Canadian location at Toronto’s CF Sherway Gardens in September. The 1,565-square-foot store carries the full line of UNTUCKit men's apparel, including shirts, sweaters, pants, outerwear and other categories.
UNTUCKit also launched an e-commerce platform for the Canadian market and has announced that it has a product fulfilment centre that is based in Toronto.
Since launching in 2011, UNTUCKit has grown to 13 product categories that range from T-shirts and polos to sports jackets and performance wear. The brand has also introduced lines for women and children, offering “perfectly contoured hemlines” and more than 50 tailored fit options.
Wayne Gretzky is an investor and he has appeared in UNTUCKit marketing campaigns in stores and across digital and print platforms in both the United States as well as in Canada.
Brokerage Oberfeld Snowcap’s Jessica Millett is representing UNTUCKit as part of its Canadian store expansion. Future locations are expected to generally measure between 1,500 square feet and 2,000 square feet, and new Canadian locations are currently being negotiated with announcements to follow.
Bonpoint: Paris-based children’s luxury fashion retailer Bonpoint opened its first Canadian store in October of 2018. The 920-square-foot boutique is located at 1512 W. 14th Avenue in the city’s Fairview area, and is being run in partnership with upscale multi-brand children’s retailer Isola Bella, which operates a retail space in Vancouver’s Kerrisdale area.
Bonpoint sells upscale children’s fashions including newborns, and also has a line of footwear, sunglasses, perfume and skincare. Some garments can cost into the hundreds of dollars each. The company was founded in 1975 with a single store in Paris, and the company has since expanded to include retail and wholesale accounts globally. Bonpoint has nine stores in the United States.
Oliver Peoples: Los Angeles-based luxury eyewear retailer Oliver Peoples opened two stores in Canada in the fall of 2018. The first opened at the beginning of October at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre, followed by a Vancouver store on the prestigious 1000 block Alberni Street about a month later.
Oliver Peoples’ frames are “anti-logo” with prices that can be well into the hundreds, which differentiates Oliver Peoples from other recent entrants that offer more in the way of value pricing. Oliver Peoples’ frames are known to be worn by celebrities and the brand has an impressive following on social media. The company was founded in 1987 with a boutique in West Hollywood, and it is now sold in its own boutiques as well as in upscale multi-brand retailers that carry eyewear. Its designers are in Los Angeles and frames are manufactured in Italy and Japan. Oliver Peoples was acquired by eyewear conglomerate Luxottica in 2007.
Peloton: New York City-based fitness company Peloton entered Canada with a splash beginning in October with several pop-up locations opening over the course of about a month. The first was a standalone store on Toronto’s Mink Mile which is still operating as of this week. Other locations followed soon after, including at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre, Square One in Mississauga, CF Chinook Centre in Calgary, and at Edmonton’s massive West Edmonton Mall.
US media has dubbed Peloton as being 'the Netflix of fitness,' bringing live and on-demand boutique studio classes to one’s home environment. All content is produced in the brand's state-of-the-art NYC studio, run by award-winning television producers with world-class instructors, according to Peloton. Peloton bikes retail in Canada at $2,950 (including delivery and setup) and there’s an additional $49 charge per month to access Peloton Digital’s unlimited class subscription, which includes cycling as well as ‘floor’ workouts such as running, bootcamp, strength, stretching and yoga.
Peloton, which was founded in 2012, operates a network of 42 stores in the United States with more on the way, as well as a location in London, UK. More Canadian locations are planned and as well, landlords are looking to work with Peloton to open permanent storefronts in a handful of malls.
King Living: Upscale Australian furniture retailer King Living opened its first store in North America on Vancouver’s tony South Granville strip in November.
King Living was founded in 1977 in Sydney, Australia, and is known for its high-quality and well-designed contemporary leather and fabric sofas as well as dining furniture, bedroom, storage and outdoor furniture. King Living sofas are known to feature steel frames and ‘comfort seat suspension’. King Living’s prices aren’t cheap — many items are in the thousands of dollars, positioning King Living as a premium furniture retailer.
Bottega Veneta: In November, Italian luxury brand Bottega Veneta opened a beautiful standalone store at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre, marking a first for the brand in Canada. Bottega Veneta is expanding its operations in Canada as it also opens leased concessions at Holt Renfrew — a Vancouver shop-in-store became a concession in October of 2018 at Holts CF Pacific Centre, and construction is about to begin on a concession at Holt Renfrew’s 50 Bloor St. W. flagship in Toronto. Bottega Veneta will also open an accessories concession at Montreal’s ‘Holt Renfrew Ogilvy’, which will become Canada’s largest luxury department store when it is completed next year.
Bottega Veneta’s 4,700 square foot Yorkdale store, which includes 3,035 square feet of retail space, features an expansive 40-foot wide facade and soaring ceilings reflecting the latest design aesthetic for the brand. The store carries an expansive assortment of fashions and accessories for both women and men. The front part of the store is dedicated to leather goods such as handbags and wallets, with an expansive selection also contained in storage drawers in a variety of colours. Two other rooms feature an assortment of Bottega Veneta footwear as well as fashions, including a full range of ready-to-wear for both genders. The store also has a fragrance wall, eyewear, as well as an area displaying products from the Bottega Veneta home collection. Click here for photos of the store.
Graff Diamonds: Canada’s first storefront for UK-based luxury jewellery brand Graff Diamonds opened on West Georgia Street in Vancouver’s ‘Luxury Zone’ in early December, 2018. The 575 square foot Graff salon features a selection of Graff jewellery, engagement rings and timepieces. The impressive interior includes brushed- gold vitrines showcasing one-of-a-kind high jewellery suites, fine jewellery collections and timepieces. As it becomes more established, some pieces on display in the Vancouver Graff salon will be one-of-a-kind and some will be priced in excess of $1-million — though it also has some less costly items with prices beginning at about $6,000.
The boutique opened in partnership with Canadian jewellery retailer Birks.
Patek Philippe: Birks also partnered with luxury Swiss watch brand Patek Philippe on its first storefront in Canada, located next to Graff Diamonds on West Georgia Street in Vancouver’s ‘Luxury Zone’. The Graff and Patek Philippe boutiques are connected internally with the same cashiers while from the outside, they have their own entrances and retail signage.
The Patek Philippe salon features a subdued and luxurious interior with beige walls and furniture that contrasts with dark trim. The boutique features a range of pricey Patek Philippe timepieces, some which can be priced into the six figures.
Patek Philippe watches can also be found in a handful of upscale jewellery retailers in Canada.
Morphe Cosmetics: Popular beauty brand Morphe Cosmetics opened its first Canadian store at Square One in Mississauga in December. The 4,660-square-foot store carries the full range of makeup colours and brushes that have given the brand a cult following.
Morphe was founded in 2008 by artists and influencers, and the brand is popular partly because its price-points are kept reasonable. Known for its eyeshadow palettes (a vast variety, most priced below $50) as well as its brushes that are used by makeup artists globally.
In early January of 2019, Youtube celebrity James Charles, known for his makeup skills, was part of the grand opening of the new store. More than 10,000 people reportedly showed up, Which Mr. Charles said was a record.
We recently published a feature on Morphe’s expansion into Canada, which will also include a second unit to open soon at West Edmonton Mall.
O bag: Popular Italian bag brand O bag opened its first Canadian store at the Centre Rockland in Montreal in December. A second location will open at CF Carrefour Laval in suburban Montreal in the spring of 2019.
The brand is popular because of its simple, stylish and practical bags that can be personalized through customization options. The bodies of the bags are made from a lightweight foam called XL Extralight®, which is soft and warm to touch, waterproof, strong, flexible and anti-microbial. Retail Insider recently profiled the brand and its Canadian expansion.
Canadian licensee Carmine Di Fruscia (who is also president of Mr. Pretzels in Canada) is rolling-out the O bag retail expansion with plans for about 50 stores in Canada over the next five years.
Have we missed any? Feel free to comment below, or email Retail Insider's Editor-in-Chief, Craig Patterson, at: email@example.com.
Watch for our 2019 Canadian retail forecast where we’ll look ahead to what experts are expecting for the industry.