Upscale sunglasses and eyewear brand Ray-Ban has opened its first standalone storefront in Canada at CF Toronto Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto. It marks a milestone for Ray-Ban which for years has been distributed in other retailers in Canada, and is one of a handful of international brands that will have entered the Canadian market by opening standalone stores in 2020.
CF TORONTO EATON CENTRE LOCATION IS CANADA’S FIRST STANDALONE RAY-BAN STORE
The CF Toronto Eaton Centre Ray-Ban store is located on the mall’s second level in a retail space measuring just over 650 square feet. The store features Ray-Ban’s signature red signage as well as a branded interior housing hundreds of pairs of sunglasses and frames. The new store is located between storefronts for Laline and Johnson & Murphy, across from the mall’s Aritiza store.
Until last week, Ray-Ban was only carried in Canada at multi-brand retailers. That includes Sunglass Hut, Hakim Optical, Sport Chek, Pearle Vision, LenseCrafters, and other chains — not to mention a wide range of independent retailers specializing in optical goods. Ray-Ban’s direct-to-consumer move into standalone stores as well as a transactional Canadian website is a trend being seen by many other brands, some of which are pulling out of multi-brand retailers to open corporate stores.
At the same time, given the limited number of corporate standalone Ray-Ban stores in the United States, multi-brand retailers are likely to be an important sales channel for Ray-Ban for years to come.
More Ray-Ban stores could open in Canada. A store representative said that the CF Toronto Eaton Centre location would be a test store for the brand. A consistent flow of customers despite the COVID-19 pandemic is an indication that the standalone store model could be a success for Ray-Ban in Canada. In the United States, Ray-Ban operates standalone stores in major cities in a mix of malls and street-front locations.
Ray-Ban is headquartered in Milan Italy, though it was founded in the United States. In 1929, US Army Air Corps Colonel John A. Macready worked with Rochester NY-based medical equipment manufacturer Bausch & Lomb to create aviation sunglasses optimized for pilots. In 1936, anti-glare lenses were introduced and in 1938, the company created impact-resistant lenses which were redesigned with metal frames for the patented Ray-Ban Aviator. Other styles were released in subsequent decades including the ‘Olympian’ which was worn by Peter Fonda in the 1969 film Easy Rider. In 1999, Milan-based Luxottica Group acquired Bausch & Lomb’s Global Eyewear Division for US$640 million.
Over the past five years, Canada saw a record number of international brands enter the market by opening retail stores. Between 2017 and 2019, more than 110 brands opened their first stores in Canada. This year will see the fewest of any year in recent memory due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though we’re aware of several more that we’ll be announcing in the coming weeks.