By Craig Patterson
Aarhus, Denmark-based waterproof product-focused brand ‘Rains’ has entered the Canadian market with its first standalone storefront. The brand plans to further expand with more stores while also creating brand awareness for its wholesale accounts.
The new Vancouver Rains storefront measures about 750 square feet and is located at 227 Carrall Street in the city’s historic Gastown area, next to a recently opened Le Labo boutique. The Rains shop carries an expansive assortment of Rains-branded products and the company says that the goal of the store is to showcase the entire collection to Canadian consumers in a city that is known for its wet weather, particularly in the winter months. The Vancouver store also provides a level of product knowledge and customer service that isn’t generally available in retailers that wholesale the line.
The Vancouver store’s interior features a ‘Scandinavian DNA’ according to co-founder Philip Lotko, with grey-on-grey walls and contemporary wood fixtures throughout. The stark interior makes the product stand out, particularly as many items are colourful. The historic Gastown building’s facade was maintained to keep with the historical architectural integrity of the neighbourhood.
Rains was founded in 2012 and has grown quickly by “mixing function with fashion”, according to the company. Waterproof outerwear is a focus, and Rains also offers a line of waterproof bags and accessories. The brand launched with one product: a poncho that came in a variety of colours. The next season saw the brand greatly expand its product assortment.
Prices are considered affordable for products. Rain jackets are priced in the $140-$150 range. A range of waterproof bags are priced in the $100 to $150 range each.
Vancouver was chosen for Rains first Canadian storefront partly because of the strength of Rains’ wholesale accounts in the city. Mr. Lotko explained that he’d like to open larger stores than the one that the company initially opened in Vancouver, and that a ‘cluster’ of stores in Canadian markets will help enhance overall brand awareness. Stores allow locals and tourists to have easy access to the brand’s products in a consistent and curated environment.
Multiple locations in Vancouver are possible, he said. Copenhagen, for example, has two standalone stores as well as wholesale accounts. Rains could also open shop-in-store concepts in other retailers, Mr. Lotko said. Rains currently operates 200 shop-in-stores worldwide as well as 22 standalone boutiques.
The standalone stores are in European countries such as Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, France, Germany and The Netherlands. The UK is home to two units in London, and there are three stores in China and one in Moscow. Rains currently has one standalone store in the United States, on Lafayette Street in New York City. More North American locations are planned according to Mr. Lotko, with the company eyeing markets such as Seattle and Portland for stores.
Rains is in a significant expansion phase as it will open as many as 10 stores globally in 2019. The company only began opening standalone units in 2016 and will focus on rapid growth both with its retail and wholesale channels.
While there are no immediate plans to open more stores in Canada, Mr. Lotko said that the retailer is looking to markets such as Toronto and Montreal to open stores. Rains continues to see success with its wholesale operations in Canada and those metrics could be useful in determine potential expansion markets, he said.
Brands continue to go direct-to-consumer by opening their own retail stores. There are numerous Canadian examples as well. Vegan fashion and accessory brand Matt & Nat began opening stores in 2016 and will have 15 open by the end of this year — prior to opening stores, the brand only wholesaled in other retailers. The same can be said for Canada Goose, Herschel and other brands that have been opening their own stores over the past three years. We’ll continue to see brands opening their own stores for two primary reasons — stores are able to showcase a brand’s identity in a curated environment with staff while also potentially offering bigger profit margins for the brands themselves.
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd. Email Craig: firstname.lastname@example.org