By Craig Patterson
World-renowned Canadian musical performer Drake’s fashion retail concept October’s Very Own (OVO) has opened another standalone unit in Canada. Over the weekend, crowds lined up to get a glimpse of OVO’s new CF Toronto Eaton Centre store, which carries some product exclusives not found in OVO’s other stores globally.
The opening coincided with ‘OVO Fest’ that was held in Toronto over the weekend. The shopping centre was also busy because of the Caribbean Carnival, and the new Streaming by CF that was launched in the centre last week has also brought in some high profile guests.
The 2,890 square foot CF Toronto Eaton Centre OVO store is located in a retail space that was formerly occupied by Canadian retailer Lululemon on the third level of the busy shopping centre. Lululemon recently relocated to a nearby space formerly occupied by J.Crew (spanning almost 8,300 square feet).
The store features a Calcatta Volakas facade and interior columns imported from Portugal. Included inside are matte black steel fixtures with Nero Marquina marble stone plinths and a cash desk sourced from Italy. The store opening included an exclusive "Yonge Street Dreams" Shop Tee, the launch of the So Far Gone capsule collection, OVO collaboration pieces, and the staple OVO Essentials collection.
Brokerage JLL has partnered with OVO for its expansion. Dianne Lemm and Chris Canuel negotiated the CF Toronto Eaton Centre on behalf of OVO. Cadillac Fairview is the landlord for CF Toronto Eaton Centre, which is one of Canada’s most-productive shopping centres with annual sales per square foot now surpassing $1,600. The centre is also the busiest in North America, with nearly 54 million annual visitors — Mall of America in suburban Minneapolis is second with about 40 million visiting the centre last year.
"When people think of iconic tourist destinations, they think of CF Toronto Eaton Centre and when people think about iconic Torontonians, they think of Drake and the OVO brand," said Sheila Jennings, General Manager, CF Toronto Eaton Centre. "The two joining forces makes total sense and launching on the weekend of the Caribbean Carnival is also perfect—the city's vibe is fun, and electric, and we're proud to be a part of the experience with this great Canadian brand."
OVO’s direct-to-consumer store expansion has seen the retailer expand outside of Canada with units in New York City, Los Angeles and London. OVO also currently operates five units in Canada.
OVO’s first-ever store opened in Toronto in December of 2014 at 899 Dundas Street West. The small boutique was the brainchild of OVO’s co-founder Oliver El-Khatib, and it followed a summer of 2014 pop-up that was held in the same retail space.
In December of 2015, OVO opened its second store location at 130 N. La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles, spanning about 2,400 square feet. In December of 2016, OVO’s third store location opened at 54 Bond Street in New York City. A store in London UK opened at 30 Berwick Street in the city’s Soho area in 2017.
Drake made news in June of 2017 when he released a one-minute video announcing the opening of OVO’s fourth store at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre. The video involved him and others riding through the mall in a Cadillac Escalade to the tune of his hit song “Gyalchester”. The 1,580 square foot Yorkdale OVO store opened in August of 2017.
OVO opened another Toronto-area store in November of 2018 when it unveiled a 2,920 square foot unit at Square One in Mississauga. It was the first to include a children’s wear area. OVO expanded into the Vancouver market when it opened a 2,000 square foot store at 1044 Robson Street in Vancouver. That store also saw long lineups on opening day, as is common for many first-to-market concepts in the city.
Drake, whose real name is Aubrey Drake Graham, is known worldwide for such hits as 'Hotline Bling' and his 2016 studio album 'Views', which included a photoshopped image of Drake sitting on the edge of the CN Tower (and sold millions of copies). Fans, eager to associate with the musician, are buying up branded products under his OVO label, which was founded in 2008 and features OVO’s trademark owl logo. OVO also collaborates with various other brands.
Drake grew up in Toronto and was a star on the hit TVSeries Degrassi The Next Generation. He continues to be a booster of Toronto, a city which he is clearly fond of. He mentions Toronto often in interviews and in his music, and spends a considerable amount of time in the city when he’s not traveling. He’s also investing in the city as he builds a 40,000 square foot mansion in the wealthy 'Bridle Path' neighbourhood in North York.
More standalone OVO locations are expected to open globally as the brand continues to see considerable awareness, which no doubt leads to high profits. The direct-to-consumer model means that OVO doesn’t have to pay fees associated with wholesaling in other retailers — a trend we’re seeing more of as international brands continue to enter the Canadian market by opening stores at an unprecedented pace.
OVO is noticeably absent from Canadian markets such as Montreal, Edmonton and Calgary. The company hasn’t revealed concrete plans to open any more stores in Canada as of yet, though given the penetration in the Toronto market, multiple units in other cities are a possibility.
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: email@example.com