Laura Canada Revamps Stores, Expands Chains

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By Megan Harman

Quebec-based women’s clothing chains Laura and Melanie Lyne are revitalizing their presence in the Canadian market, with many locations undergoing redesigns and several new stores opening this year.

Laura Canada has opened five new stores under the two banners in the past year, and six more stores are set to open across Western Canada in the coming months. The chains design, produce and sell contemporary fashion essentials for women.

“Fortunately, sales have been trending well for our brands, which is a result of dedicated teams executing very focused, customer-centric strategies from merchandise design to digital and the entire store experience,” says Josh Fisher, senior vice-president of Laura Canada. “We see good growth opportunity in Western Canada.”

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Laura Canada’s expansion comes four years after the company filed for creditor protection following losses that the company attributed to “internal strategic errors”. The company successfully completed restructuring in November 2015, ultimately closing 20 locations.

Since that time, the company has focused on redesigning its stores and investing in technology to improve the customer experience.

“We pride ourselves on providing an exceptional shopping experience to our customers,” Fisher says. “Part of that is certainly the physical environment and we felt there was an opportunity to update the concept to better service our customers.”

This spring, Laura Canada completed renovations at several Melanie Lyne and Laura stores, including locations in West Edmonton Mall, St. Laurent Shopping Centre, Square One, CF Carrefour Laval and CF Polo Park. The company worked with Montreal-based design firms LODA Design and GHA Design Studios on the renovations.

Some of the most notable features of the newly designed stores include expanded fitting room areas and touch screens that allow customers to browse products on the retailer’s websites. The redesigned Laura stores also feature an expanded floor area to better showcase the brand’s plus-sized clothing and evening dresses—two areas that the retailer expects to continue to drive growth.

Several of the new design elements, such as lighting, colour palette and façade, are being rolled out to all stores across the chain, according to Fisher.

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New stores that have opened in the past year include new Laura locations at Londonderry Mall in Edmonton, Outlet Collection Winnipeg and Stone Ridge Mall in Guelph, Ontario; and new Melanie Lyne locations at Halifax Shopping Centre and Tsawwassen Mills, B.C. The company now operates 90 Laura stores and 47 Melanie Lyne stores across the country.

This summer and fall, Laura Canada will be opening six new stores, including Melanie Lyne locations in Langley, B.C. and Mayfair Shopping Centre in Victoria, B.C., and new Laura locations at Southpointe Common in Red Deer, Alberta, Lougheed Centre in B.C., Grandview Corners in Surrey, B.C. and Grand Prairie, Alberta.

The company is actively exploring growth opportunities in other regions as well, Fisher says, however no details are available yet.

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Fisher says strong customer service is central to the retailer’s strategy. “Laura has built a very loyal following of customers who rely on the brand’s devoted store associates, curated career collections as well as outerwear and an unmatched evening dress department,” he says. “They often return to the same associate who remembers their preference, helps update their wardrobe or prepare for special events with the latest seasonal collections.”

In addition to revamping its physical store presence, Laura Canada has been investing heavily in technology and e-commerce capabilities, Fisher says.

“The vast majority of our customers have now embraced online shopping, whether it is browsing online and transacting in store, or vice versa,” he says. “The website incorporates all the best practices and we continue to redevelop components in order to leverage any new technology available that we feel would meaningfully enhance the customer experience.”

Even though many customers appreciate the convenience of online shopping, however, Fisher says physical stores remain highly relevant to the brand’s customers.

“We believe strongly that our customers are social by nature and most crave the interactions with our associates who have really become trusted confidantes to many of their loyal customers,” he says. “Shopping centres continue to provide a relevant venue for friends and relatives to spend time together, more than ever in this digital age.”

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Laura Canada has worked to incorporate technology into the bricks and mortar experience by adopting new tools and applications to proactively rebalance inventory, optimize labour and enable ‘ship from store’ capabilities. The retailer has also introduced new POS terminals and iPads into stores, as a way to enhance the customer experience.

“Technology has been so helpful to enable our committed and passionate associates to deliver outstanding service to their customers,” Fisher says. “We will continue to invest in technology to the extent that it helps us meaningfully enhance the customer experience.”

Laura and Melanie Lyne are represented by Jack Klaiman and David Garbuz at Oberfeld Snowcap.

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Megan Harman is a business reporter based in Toronto. She writes about topics including retail, financial services and technology. Megan covers Toronto’s retail industry through her blog Retail Realm (torontoretail.wordpress.com). Follow her on Twitter at @meganmharman.

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