An expanded retail footprint for essence

European makeup brand essence has gained more shelf space in the Canadian retail market, thanks to a recent mega retail merger.

essence, which is owned by German cosmetics company Cosnova GmbH, is known for fun and affordable makeup products, with an average retail price of just $3.69.

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The brand made its Canadian debut in 2012, under an exclusive distribution partnership with Shoppers Drug Mart. With the 2014 acquisition of Shoppers having brought the drug store chain under the ownership of Loblaw Companies Ltd., essence has now gained a massive new distribution network.

In addition to its presence within Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix stores, essence is gaining real estate this spring within certain Loblaws grocery stores.

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Under the new distribution arrangement, designated Loblaws stores will carry twice as many essence products compared with the amount of essence merchandise available at Shoppers Drug Mart. Loblaws stores will also carry certain exclusive essence products that are not available anywhere else in the Canadian market.

The essence brand seems a good fit for Loblaws, where its in-house fashion and cosmetics brand, Joe Fresh, shares a similar philosophy of trendy items for affordable prices.

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At a downtown Toronto event in late February, essence showcased its spring makeup collection, including certain Loblaws exclusives. The new collection features plenty of pastels and bright spring colours that are sure to attract shoppers as the products make their debut on the shelves of their new retail partner.

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Filed under Department Stores & Big Boxes, Events

Difficulties at Danier

The intense competitive pressures that have wreaked havoc on Canadian retailers in the past few years are showing no signs of slowing down.

The latest victim is Toronto-based Danier Leather Inc., a 44-year old leather-goods retailer that filed for creditor protection in early February. The chain operates more than 80 stores, all of which face the prospect of shutting down unless the company can find a buyer or investor to reverse its grim financial situation.

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The potential closure would leave vacancies in most major GTA shopping centres, including the Toronto Eaton Centre, Sherway Gardens, Square One, Fairview Mall and Scarborough Town Centre, among others.

Danier has carved out a reputation as a destination for leather goods. The brand has certainly had success within that niche, with a wide range of leather outerwear and bags, along with complementary accessories such as scarves, toques and gloves.

As frigid Canadian winters have driven consumers towards parkas and down-filled coats warm enough to get them through days when the temperature struggles to surpass -20 degrees, however, Danier has faced increasing competition from brands such as Canada Goose.

Even if the bulk of Danier’s merchandise is designed for times of year when a lighter jacket is appropriate, consumers who are shelling out hundreds of dollars on winter parkas have likely begun to think twice about spending extra cash on a new spring jacket.

It remains to be seen whether this niche Canadian chain will be rescued, or suffer the same fate as such brands as Mexx Canada and Parasuco Retail Inc.

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Filed under Fashion

Retailer relaunched

A west-end retail destination for trend-setters has unveiled an updated brand, a fresh feel, and a new suite of designer brands.

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Riant Boutique, located around the corner from the Thompson Hotel in the trendy King Street West area, has re-launched its identity.

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The women’s fashion retailer offers a mix of casual and dressy fashions, including accessories and outerwear. The relaunch was an opportunity for the boutique to introduce some new labels into the mix and re-energize the brand.

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The new and improved boutique is bright, spacious and welcoming. Its new roster of designers includes A.L.C., Alice and Olivia, Mackage, Ted Baker, Vince, and many more coveted labels.

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The upscale merchandise features up-to-date trends, including furs and warm winter coats that are sure to appeal to local fashionistas who are buckling down for another cold winter.

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Side note for readers: I thought the ‘relaunch’ theme of this post was appropriate given the recent hiatus of Retail Realm. Although other endeavours have kept me busy in recent months, I’m still committed to covering Toronto vibrant retail scene! Stay tuned for more.

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Filed under Boutiques, Events, Fashion

Furniture and photography

Furniture retailer Leon’s will be opening the doors of its downtown Toronto location to photographers and art fans this weekend, as it hosts a photography exhibit entitled Toronto CLICKS.

The pop-up gallery, presented by online photography community Streets of Toronto, takes over the Leon’s at the Roundhouse store near the Steamwhistle Brewery on Saturday, Oct. 18th.

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Streets of Toronto is an online photography community with more than 25,000 followers. Contributors use the hashtag #StreetsOfToronto on social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter to showcase urban photography of landscapes, architecture and public spaces across the city.

Saturday’s exhibit will showcase the work of 50 Toronto photographers, and will mark the launch of StreetsOfToronto.com – the official website for the organization’s upcoming digital and print magazine, as well as a branded line of merchandise.

The 40,000 square-foot furniture store boasts a modern, loft-like atmosphere that’s certainly appropriate for this kind of artistic event.

The exhibit will be open to the public from 1 pm to 5 pm on Saturday. Visitors will be able to purchase photographs, and can enjoy light refreshments as they take in compelling images of this dynamic city.

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Filed under Events, Retail & the Web

Celebrating past and present at CBD

The newest addition to Toronto’s King Street East Design District celebrated its official grand opening this week, and showed off its hefty collection of furniture and home decor items.

Creations By Design (CBD Co.), located at 81 King Street East, specializes in the concepts of reinvention, reusing and renovation.

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The shop’s owners travel extensively in Canada and abroad, in search of unique pieces that can be revamped into stylish new items that appeal to a variety of different tastes and budgets.

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Elements of both new and old are very evident in many of the items at CBD. For instance, drawer units made from rustic wood are refinished with rich new stains or repainted with modern patterns, and metallic finishes are used to add a contemporary feel to vintage items.

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The result is an eccentric collection of furniture that embraces the history of each item, with a fresh spin.

With similar elements of past and present in the boutique itself, including exposed brick alongside freshly painted walls and rich hardwood floors, CBD has created a very appropriate backdrop for its collection.

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In a market that’s largely dominated by major mass-producers of merchandise, it’s refreshing to see the emergence of new independent retailers promoting unique items that aren’t found on other stores’ shelves.

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Filed under Boutiques, Events

Veering out of the virtual world

Online marketplace Etsy appears to be branching out of the e-commerce world and making strides into the face-to-face retail space.

Etsy, an online marketplace where consumers can browse and purchase creative items by artists from around the world, has been experimenting with a variety of projects this year that bring merchandise off of the website and into bricks and mortar stores and markets.

Later this month, Etsy will host a cross-country event called Made in Canada, in which pop-up markets will appear across the country. The one-day event, on Sept. 27th, will take place in more than 20 cities across the country, allowing vendors the opportunity to sell their merchandise to shoppers face-to-face.

In Toronto, the event will take over the atrium of the MaRs Centre, showcasing one-of-a-kind goods from 100 local sellers.

The Made in Canada initiative follows #EtsyRoadTrip – a road show in which a 30-foot custom AirStream trailer brought Etsy merchandise to shoppers Montreal, Ottawa, Kingston and Toronto during the first week of August.

Beyond these pop-up marketplaces, Etsy has established a longer term strategy around the concept of bringing Etsy merchandise into the real world.

The initiative, called Etsy Wholesale, connects the artists and designers within its marketplace with retailers who are interested in carrying their products. The initiative provides artists with a new channel on which to sell their products, and it gives retailers access to unique new items to feature on their shelves.

Earlier this year, the company announced that Indigo Books & Music Inc. has signed on as one of the participating retailers, and Indigo began selling a selection of Etsy merchandise in certain stores, including the Toronto Eaton Centre location.

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The steady growth of online shopping shows no signs of slowing down, and most bricks and mortar retailers have responded to that in recent years by establishing comprehensive websites and e-commerce capabilities alongside the physical stores that they operate.

Against that backdrop, it’s interesting to see some retailers moving in the opposite direction by first establishing themselves online, and then shifting into the physical retail space.

It’s a sign that despite the digital times in which we live, innovation in the retail industry is not a one-way street. Although the internet has opened up a variety of new sales options, marketing practices and alternative ways of connecting with consumers, there continue to be opportunities to innovate in the traditional retail world.

Bricks and mortar stores, it turns out, serve an important function that cannot necessarily be fulfilled online.

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Filed under Events, Retail & the Web

The final chapter for a big retail landmark

In an era where a growing number of consumers get their news online and read books on handheld devices, it should be no surprise that books and other paper products are not generating strong sales.

Still, it somehow seems unexpected when a bookstore as notorious as the World’s Biggest Bookstore – a Toronto landmark that’s been around for more than three decades – closes its doors.

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Photo courtesy of World’s Biggest Bookstore Facebook Page.

By now, most Torontonians are likely accustomed to seeing ‘Going out of Business Sale’ signs in the windows of neighbourhood bookstores. Back in January, for instance, we learned that Book City’s flagship store in the Annex was shutting down after almost 40 years.

It’s pretty clear what’s driving this trend. As bookstores compete with online retailers like Amazon.com, along with a growing array of tablets and e-readers that enable us to consume books in a compact, portable, paperless fashion, people are simply not going to stores to buy books nearly as often as they did in the past.

Meanwhile, many of the bookstores that are still around are rapidly diversifying their product shelves to give shoppers other reasons to come into their stores, as books do not have the draw they once did.

Shoppers who have visited a Indigo store in the past year or two, for example, could be forgiven for mistaking it for a home décor retailer, given the growing selection of candles, throws and vases in those stores. That strategy appears to be paying off: the company has seen double-digit growth in sales of lifestyle products, toys and other non-book items in recent quarters.

In the case of the World’s Biggest Bookstore, it had certainly seen better days. Last time I stopped by, the store looked dated and run down – especially compared to Indigo’s other stores. In that sense, its looming closure is not too surprising.

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Still, the closure of this store seems somehow symbolic, reflecting the end of an era in the world of books. The store was more than a bookshop – it was a landmark. Given our rapidly changing world, however, maybe this landmark was simply no longer a relevant one.

The future of the book retailing business does not look particularly promising. But, for now, Toronto shoppers still have various destinations to buy books – even once the city’s biggest book hub has officially closed shop.

The doors will close for the last time tomorrow, on March 30th. So get your final fix before it’s too late.

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Filed under Retail & the Web, Store Closures