By Julia Marchionda
U.S.-based outdoor specialty retailer L.L.Bean has announced its first brick-and-mortar location in Canada will open this year in Oakville Place in Oakville (located between Hamilton and Toronto). L.L.Bean announced last fall that it had entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with Canadian distributer The Jaytex Group for its expansion into Canada. The agreement brought with it the launch of a Canadian e-commerce division and wholesale partnerships with several prominent retailers.
The 14,205 square foot Oakville Place store will be located in the retail space recently vacated by upscale Toronto-based grocery chain Pusateri’s Fine Foods. Pusateri’s occupied an 18,000 square foot storefront at Oakville Place for about two and a half years prior to vacating in December. The L.L.Bean lease deal at Oakville Place was negotiated by brokerage Oberfeld Snowcap under the direction of Andrew Laudenbach. Oberfeld Snowcap represents L.L.Bean in Canada for its expansion.
L.L.Bean partnered with Toronto-based distributor The Jaytex Group on the Canadian expansion, including L.L.Bean’s current wholesale distribution as well as a retail expansion that could see 20 branded L.L.Bean stores open in Canada over the next decade. Privately-owned Jaytex Group was founded in 1978 and features a portfolio of private label and lifestyle brands licensed in Canada.
Family-run L.L.Bean was founded by Leon Leonwood Bean in 1911 when he developed the brand’s flagship product, the Maine Hunting Shoe, which combines rubber bottoms with leather uppers to ensure one’s feet remained dry while hunting. L.L.Bean was officially founded in 1912 and has been in business for nearly 107 years.
The company’s original Maine flagship complex has been open since 1917, spanning 220,000 square feet and is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The motivation behind L.L.Bean’s always-on hours was to accommodate visiting sportsmen who would drive all night and wanted an early start the following day. Fun fact: since 1951, the store has not had locks on the door – a true testament to its trust in the community.
In addition to their historic Maine flagship, L.L.Bean operates 41 locations across the United States as well as 10 outlet stores. L.L.Bean opened its first international location in Tokyo, Japan in 1992 and manages 28 stores and outlets in that market. The outdoor retailer hosts special events like clinics and demonstrations in all of their stores throughout the year. It has yet to be confirmed if L.L.Bean will be running similar events in their Canadian stores.
Competitors for L.L.Bean in Canada include retailers like: Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, SAIL, and MEC. It will be interesting to track the Maine retailer’s journey in the Canadian market, especially following reports of combined Bass Pro and Cabela’s stores on the horizon. These types of outdoor specialty stores tend to exist in large-format standalone or anchor units. Retail Insider will continue to track L.L.Bean’s progress in Canada following the opening of the Oakville Place store.
Other new additions to Oakville Place’s directory include buybuy BABY a division of Bed Bath & Beyond. “Brands such as L.L.Bean and buybuy BABY reinforce our position as the go-to destination for Oakville’s shoppers. We are honoured to host Canada’s first-to-market L.L.Bean store,” said Oakville Place General Manager, Carl King.
“Oakville Place is one of our town’s most recognizable landmarks and has always been a place for communities and families to gather and meet their shopping needs,” stated King. Oakville Place is managed by RioCan.
L.L.Bean is the latest international brand to enter the Canadian market by opening stores. In 2018, Canada saw more than 30 brands open standalone stores, which was down from a record-breaking 50+ international brands in 2017.
Retail expert and consultant, Julia Marchionda, is a graduate from both the University of Toronto and Humber College. She spent most of her educational career honing her skills in critical thinking, marketing communications, and finding her unique voice in her writing.
With tenures in several areas of retail under her belt, Julia has lead teams in achieving sales goals and allowed herself to become consumed in understanding retail business.