By Craig Patterson
Iconic Toronto-based fashion retailer Over the Rainbow, which specializes in denim with hundreds of styles, has just opened its new store location at the Manulife Centre on Bloor Street West in Toronto. The store relocated from a smaller space on nearby Yorkville Avenue that the retailer had occupied for years.
Joel Carman co-founded Over the Rainbow in Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville area in 1975, and it continues to be a family run business to this day. It began as a 450 square foot shop that soon relocated to a 1,500 square foot Cumberland Street location, prior to relocating to 101 Yorkville Avenue in 1982.
The 4,300 square foot Yorkville Avenue store closed last weekend and product was relocated to Over the Rainbow’s new 6,500 square foot retail space at the Manulife Centre, located at 55 Boor Street West across the street from Holt Renfrew’s flagship. Over the Rainbow technically occupies about 10,500 square feet at the Manulife Centre according to Joel Carman, with about 4,000 square feet of back room and offices also behind the new store.
Broker Richard Levinsky negotiated the Manulife Centre lease deal on behalf of Over the Rainbow and remarkably, also negotiated the Cumberland Street and 101 Yorkville Avenue lease deals in years past. Retail consultancy Beauleigh is working with landlord Manulife to lease out spaces in the overhauled retail podium of Manulife Centre which recently saw Birks open a new concept store and with Eataly, Pilot Coffee and Shoppers Drug Mart on the way as well.
The new Over the Rainbow location has been significantly updated from the previous Yorkville Avenue storefront, and the retailer has also adopted a new logo and branding. Award-winning architectural design firm Giannone Petricone Associates Inc. created the new retail space, and boutique creative agency JULIET was commissioned to evolve the company’s brand identity.
The Over the Rainbow store itself features attractive interiors using high quality materials such as stone flooring, wood, stone, and copper accents in the store as well as on the facade. Two large ‘denim walls’ are featured in the store, one for men’s styles at one end and another for women at the other. The men’s denim department measured about 900 square feet in the former Yorkville Avenue store, and the new Manulife Centre Over the Rainbow now boasts 2,500 square feet that is dedicated to men’s fashions and accessories. More than 160 denim styles can be found on the men’s denim wall.
A large women’s area also features a denim wall as well as four shop-in-store areas that will feature rotating ‘stories’ with different looks, depending on the season. The women’s area features two clusterings of bright and spacious dressing rooms, with the men’s area also housing several rooms near the store’s repair and tailoring area. Included behind a glass wall is an area where customers can get free repairs on Nudie Jeans, as well as the “best hems in the city” for denim, according to Mr. Carman.
The store includes a Canada Goose shop-in-store. Mr. Carman explained that the brand has been with Over the Rainbow for about 15 years. Over the Rainbow ensures to diversify its brand offerings, he noted, especially as many brands are now going direct-to-consumer with their own storefronts.
Other kitschy elements in the new store include a wall made of recycled denim, and a 24-karat gold-plated sewing machine that was a gift from fashion brand AG to the Carman family. There are also ‘Yorkville’ branded products and shirts with Over the Rainbow’s former logo.
Joel Carman explained that the retailer’s goal is to have the widest range of denim styles and sizes available, with the store’s almost 40 staff having extensive product knowledge. Staff are also hired because of their personality, with the store featuring an emphasis on personalized customer service. “You can teach a nice person how to sell, but it’s harder to teach a sales person to be nice,” he said.
As well, Over the Rainbow has a robust e-commerce business and fulfillment is done from the back of the store. A system of rolling storage racks allows for efficient use of the space, and there’s even an e-commerce photography room at the back of the new store.
Over the Rainbow announced that it was relocating its store in May of 2017. One of the reasons the store had to move is the current landlord of 101 Yorkville Avenue, First Capital Realty, plans to eventually demolish the building to redevelop the site into a luxury-focused multi-unit retail building. Much of Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville area is under construction, with much of it expected to be completed by early 2021.
That includes a new facade and interior for Holt Renfrew, located at 50 Bloor Street West. Holts is consolidating its operations by relocating its standalone menswear offerings into its newly renovated flagship. Apple is said to be opening a 25,000 square foot store nearby at 1 Bloor Street West at the base of ‘The ONE’ tower at the corner of Yonge Street, and other construction in the area includes commercial and residential developments that will add thousands of new residents over the next several years, as well as new retailers as space is built out.
We’ll continue to report on the transformation of Toronto’s Bloor Yorkville, which is undergoing significant changes as it further transitions into a high-density, high-end mixed use area. Over the Rainbow is the latest piece in the puzzle and will be another draw to bring shoppers into the overhauled Manulife Centre complex that is located at the heart of the rapidly changing area.
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