By macleans.ca - Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 0 Comments
Small retailers at risk of getting crushed by Internet giants like Amazon turn to a Canadian start-up
For small stores, standing out online isn’t easy. Surging Internet sales are pushing major retailers to spend big on technology to improve their web presence—$60 billion a year in the U.S. alone, by one estimate. To compete against giants like Amazon and eBay, hundreds of shops and boutiques are turning to a Canadian start-up, Shopcaster.
The site draws on the appeal of image-focused websites like Pinterest (where users “pin” photos of products they like to online bulletin boards) to help stores advertise and sell their goods online. “In the course of talking to retailers, [the Shopcaster team] found out they were having trouble with their online presence,” says CEO Judy Sims. Founders Aron Jones and Matt O’Leary realized there was a big opportunity. With an initial investment from Toronto firm Mantella Venture Partners and an additional $1-million round of financing last July, Shopcaster quickly began signing up stores, first in Toronto, and more recently, in Vancouver and Montreal.
Of the 875 stores now signed up to Shopcaster, about 180 are using the site’s “click-to-buy” service. Retailers sign up for free to use the site, but are charged a 15 per cent commission on online sales. With the emphasis on extending the feel of walking into a boutique and discovering a one-of-a-kind gem, shops such as Toronto’s Even & Odd, which sells home decor, are doing particularly well on Shopcaster. Owner Carmen Tsang says some of the shop’s bestselling items get thousands of views on the site.
Shopcaster has yet to turn a profit and faces stiff competition from sites such as Shopify, which sells e-commerce platforms to retailers, and even Pinterest, which serves as a massive window-shopping site driving sales for retailers. Shopcaster is now planning expansion into the U.S. and is hiring a scout in New York to seek out local boutiques for the site. It plans to facilitate cross-border shipping so that customers can readily order items from any city. After all, borders are easier to cross online. As Sims says: “World domination, that’s the plan.”
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 8:30 PM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – Canadians will see a familiar brand at Target’s new stores north of…
TORONTO – Canadians will see a familiar brand at Target’s new stores north of the border this spring as the retailer embarks on a limited-time partnership with Roots.
The famed lifestyle brand — which marks its 40th anniversary this year — was among the slate of partners and limited collections announced by Target ahead of its Canadian launch. The U.S. discount giant is expected to open between 125 and 135 locations in Canada in spaces that were once owned by homegrown retailer Zellers.
Target Canada senior vice-president of merchandising John Morioka said the company had always had the idea of doing “something special” for their Canadian launch, and said the collaboration with Roots has been a year and a half in the making.
Morioka was joined by several high-profile brand partners at Thursday’s announcement, including Roots co-founders Michael Budman and Don Green, famed American interior designer Nate Berkus, and chef and Food Network personality Giada De Laurentiis.
The Roots Outfitters collection, including fashions for women, men, boys, girls and toddlers, will be available from March to June.
The line will be inspired by vintage athletics and will feature national imagery and symbols synonymous with the brand, including beaver, the Maple Leaf and the “Roots” logo in cursive and block lettering emblazoned on the garments. Prices will range from $7.99 to $34.99.
“People call us an iconic brand, but we have to stay fresh,” Budman said in an interview.
“We think that this is an opportunity to reach a market that maybe we’re not reaching now; and with our design ability and (Target’s) sourcing and design ability, we think it’s a great collaboration. And we think it’s going to give a lot wider audience to see Roots when Target opens. But it is for a limited time only.”
Green said Target is the only company they’ve come across that they’d want to do business with on the mass-merchant clothing side in Canada.
“We like Target being here,” he said in an interview. “We think it gives the consumer that is looking for mass merchandise more choice because there’s only a few mass merchants in Canada now.
“It’s younger, it’s cooler, it’s hipper, it’s design-oriented. We like what they do environmentally, we like what they do for the community and we think it’s a very global world out there. Everybody else in the world is coming here, so why not Target?”
Last year, the chain revealed plans to bring a distinctly Canadian touch to its designer collaborations.
The recipient of the Target Emerging Designer Award will be announced during Montreal Fashion Week next month. The winner will get an opportunity to create a collection for the retailer’s Quebec locations.
Meanwhile, the winner of the Toronto Fashion Incubator’s New Labels contest — to be held in April — will have the chance to create a line for Target stores across Canada.
Beyond the homegrown collaborations that have already been announced, Morioka said they’ll have to wait and see whether there are more partnerships with Canadian companies in store for the future.
“We’re going to do a lot of great things in the U.S. so we want to leverage from there and make sure we have a North American Target brand strategy,” he said in an interview.
Canadians will likely see a difference in pricing compared to items carried at Target’s U.S. stores with the company focused on being “competitively priced” with retailers in Canada.
Morioka said they are bringing in a five per cent reward program from the U.S. that will allow shoppers to save instantly on any transaction, which he said is also an important part of bringing value.
“Our brand is as much about price as it is about design and our store’s experience, and so we have a lot more to offer than just price,” he said.
“As we open our doors, I think our clean store environment and distraction-free shopping experience is really important. Certainly, the collaborations and those kinds of things that we do on that front really are a great value.
“So, it is about price, but it’s also about value, and we’ll bring that to Canada. And as we learn more, we’ll have to make adjustments as we learn how Canadian guests shop our stores.”
Attendees at Thursday’s preview got an up-close glimpse of the vast range of products set to be stocked on shelves and racks when the retailer opens for business in Canada.
Colourful vignettes featuring home decor, cookware, food products, cosmetics, apparel and accessories were spread throughout the Evergreen Brick Works, which played host to the brand presentation.
Live models posed on a makeshift stage outfitted in black and white and pastels from Target’s Merona brand as well as looks from Mossimo, which creates a line for the retailer.
An eye-popping presentation featured skaters gliding across the indoor ice surface while models strutting on a makeshift green runway rounded out the presentation.
Target is also touting a women’s apparel collection from stylist Kate Young, to be on offer from April 14 to the end of May.
Other brands shoppers can expect to see at Target include cosmetics from Sonia Kashuk and fashions from snowboarder Shaun White.
Berkus’s collection includes bedding and bath accessories while De Laurentiis has a line of cookware.
By The Canadian Press - Sunday, November 11, 2012 at 7:17 PM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – One of Canada’s best-known furniture retailers is trying to buy up a…
TORONTO – One of Canada’s best-known furniture retailers is trying to buy up a high-profile rival amid a growing trend by American retailers to expand into the Canadian market.
Leon’s Furniture Limited (TSX: LNF) is offering to buy The Brick Ltd. (TSX: BRK) in a deal the company values at $700 million.
The offer is subject to approval by Brick shareholders and will need court and regulatory approval.
Leon’s says it will pay $5.40 per share in either cash or debentures _ the closing price on Brick shares on the TSX on Friday was $3.50.
It hopes to close the deal in the first quarter of 2013.
Leon’s says in a news release that if shareholders accept the offer, the two chains will continue to operate as separate entities.
The two chains are facing new competitors, chiefly in the form of American retail giant Target, which plans to open up to 135 stores across Canada in the coming year. Walmart is also adding 73 stores across Canada in the coming months, including 28 former Zellers stores.
The acquisition of The Brick would will strengthen Leon’s position in the home furnishing marketplace, said Leon’s CEO Terry Leon in a release.
“During these economic times where we have seen multiple American corporations make inroads in our country through acquisitions, it is a pleasure to see two successful Canadian retailers reach such an agreement that will better serve Canadian consumers.”
“Our combined team will have access to national buying opportunities in merchandising and marketing, and a national distribution network that will enable us to greatly enhance our online shopping capabilities.”
Other major Canadian retailers such as HBC, Shopper’s Drug Mart and Jean Coutu are also making preparations either through restructuring or how they do business to prepare for the competitive threat of Target.
Leon’s, headquartered in Toronto has 76 stores with locations in every province except British Columbia.
The Brick, which is based in Edmonton, has 230 stores operating under The Brick, United Furniture Warehouse, The Brick Mattress Store and Urban Brick banners.
By Jason Kirby - Thursday, September 15, 2011 at 11:20 AM - 3 Comments
How Canada’s down industry is fighting feather imposters
In the animal world, the closest thing to gold may be the fluffy underfeathers of the eider duck. The down, which female eiders pluck from their breasts to line their nests, is typically only found in parts of Iceland, Greenland and islands in the St. Lawrence River, and its warmth, softness and rarity make it a coveted filling for duvets—so much so that it costs $1,000 per pound. It’s why, after showing off a clump of eiderdown, Michael de la Place, president of industry group Downmark, gingerly plucks tiny plumules from the air before they float away. And it shows what’s at stake as companies in Canada’s close-knit down industry fight an onslaught of fakes and knock-offs flooding retail stores.
Down, the layer of fine feathers next to a bird’s skin, is nature’s most efficient insulator. It’s also expensive, with duck and goose down duvets, pillows and coats running from several hundred dollars up to more than $5,000. Money like that has spurred Chinese manufacturers to crank out cheap copies filled with low-grade materials. And while fake down goods make up a tiny fraction of the multi-billion-dollar market for knock-offs, the experience of those in Canada’s down industry shows how hard it is to battle the onslaught of cheap fakes. “The fraud against consumers that’s going on is mind-blowing,” says De la Place.
Last year, Canada Goose, famous for its winter coats, went on the offensive against fakes. Its jackets sell for $500 and up, but the company said a plague of knock-offs—stuffed with “feather mulch”—selling for under $100 has seriously cut into its business.