L.L. Bean Enters Canada with Plans for Stores Across the Country: Interview

PHOTO: L.L. BEAN

PHOTO: L.L. BEAN

By Mario Toneguzzi

The Jaytex Group is bringing iconic international outdoor retailer L.L.Bean to Canada in a big way with the opening of the first store in Oakville Place, just outside Toronto, August 23 to be followed by dozens of in-store locations in Hudson’s Bay across Canada.

Howie Kastner, President of Jaytex Group, told Retail Insider that the company plans to have shop-in-shop L.L.Bean stores in every Canadian Hudson’s Bay location by next spring and will expand to about 20 standalone stores in the country within 10 years.

The first retail location of L.L.Bean in Canada will be a 13,000-square-foot store in Oakville Place which is set to open August 23. The international retailer has a history of being in business for 107 years.

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Kastner said Jaytex has worked out a deal with Hudson’s Bay where the best of L.L.Bean products in all categories will be sold in self-contained branded shops ranging from 300 square feet up to 2,000 square feet.

“These shops will house our key product categories which include men’s, women’s and kids’ apparel, footwear, bags and accessories. They will be mini L.L.Bean stores within Hudson’s Bay.  Kastner said that 57 locations will be rolled out at the end of August in Bay stores and next spring it will likely be rolled out to all the remaining Bay stores in Canada.

“The Hudson’s Bay locations that we’re rolling out this fall will cover the top 57 stores from coast to coast right from the flagships in Toronto, Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver down to mid-size and smaller stores,” he said. The Bay has 88 stores in the country. The brand will also be available on thebay.com.

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“Ultimately our plan is to get to 20 standalone stores within a 10-year period and it’s really all going to depend on getting the right locations, the right deals, and the right space. We’re going to focus on Ontario first by opening four or five stores, and then start to branch out across the country. We have the postal code data from L.L.Bean from their online and catalogue business. We know where the L.L.Bean customer is.”

Jaytex is working with Andrew Laudenbach of Oberfeld Snowcap, a commercial real estate firm, to launch the stores.

L.L.Bean, Inc. is a leading multi-channel merchant of quality outdoor gear and apparel. Founded in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean, the company began as a one-room operation selling a single product, the Maine Hunting Shoe. L.L.Bean is a family-owned Maine company led by Executive Chairman, Shawn Gorman, the great-grandson of Leon Leonwood Bean and Stephen Smith, President and CEO. In the past five years, L.L.Bean has donated over $6 million toward conservation and land stewardship. L.L.Bean currently operates 44 stores in 18 states across the United States, along with 28 stores in Japan. The 220,000-square-foot. L.L.Bean retail store campus in Freeport, ME, is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and welcomes more than three million visitors every year.

“We’ve had a long, meaningful relationship with Canadian customers for decades, so we’re thrilled to be able to give our loyal Canadian fans a true comprehensive, omnichannel L.L.Bean experience, with a dedicated web site, Canadian catalogues, and now L.L.Bean retail stores,” said Smith in a news release. “As a Maine-based company that shares a lot of commonalities with our northern neighbours, we’re eager to be infusing a bit of the Maine essence and L.L.Bean brand into the Canadian market.”   

The company said the brick-and-mortar store is the latest offering of L.L.Bean products geared specifically for Canada. In late June the brand launched a Canadian-only version of its famous catalogue featuring duty-inclusive prices, designed to make the shopping experience more convenient for customers. The catalogue joined the company’s Canadian-specific website, which launched late last year.

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“Hudson’s Bay celebrates a sense of community and outdoor adventure that is embraced by Canadians,” said Wayne Drummond, Chief Merchant, Hudson’s Bay, in a news release. “Our customers trust Hudson’s Bay to find and deliver the very best brands that reflect those values. It is this shared spirit with L.L.Bean that compelled us to launch the brand in our stores and online this fall.” 

Kastner said the iconic brand already has a healthy, robust business in Canada. The company has shipped a lot of product into the country over many years. “There’s a very loyal following. We know that a lot of Canadians travel south of the border to L.L.Bean stores - in particular the Freeport store. Any day of the week you’ll see a lot of Canadian licence plates in that parking lot, and over the years a lot of the comments and the requests that L.L.Bean was getting from its customers were pretty consistent. When can we buy the product in Canada? When are you opening a store? It just seems a natural for us,” he said.

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Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com.

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