Links of London lands in Toronto

Trendy jewellery chain Links of London is opening its first Canadian standalone boutique this week in the Toronto Eaton Centre.

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The British jeweler, which is owned by global fashion powerhouse Folli Follie Group, has more than 100 retail locations around the world. In the Canadian market, it operates a handful of kiosks inside Holt Renfrew stores, as well as one that recently opened in Montreal’s downtown luxury department store Ogilvy.

Although Links of London started out specializing in cufflinks in 1990, it now offers jewellery of all kinds – including watches – and is perhaps best known for its collection of so-called ‘Sweetie’ charm bracelets.

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Sweetie Charm Bracelet, $295.

Links of London has also become affiliated with Britain’s world-famous Wimbledon tennis tournament, offering a collection of playful and sporty jewellery dedicated to the annual event.

The new store, located next to Michael Kors on the third floor of the Toronto Eaton Centre, opens on June 16th.

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A second standalone Canadian Links of London store is set to open soon at Sherway Gardens. Although the jeweller has already been operating a kiosk in Sherway’s Holt Renfrew location, that store is preparing to shut its doors to make way for a new, larger Holt Renfrew location at Square One Shopping Centre.

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Reiss reaches overseas

U.K.-based fashion brand Reiss has opened its second Toronto location at Sherway Gardens, and a recent ownership change for the chain suggests Canadians could soon see more Reiss stores across the country.

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Reiss store at the Toronto Eaton Centre.

The upscale men’s and women’s clothing retailer, known for being a favourite brand of the Dutchess of Cambridge, made its Canadian debut in March with the opening of a store in the Toronto Eaton Centre.

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The chain, founded by David Reiss in 1971, now has more than 160 locations in 15 countries.

In April, Reiss Holdings – the company that owns the retail chain – entered an agreement to sell a majority stake in the company to New York-based global private equity firm Warburg Pincus LLC.

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That transaction positions Reiss for further international growth, particularly in North America, Asia and Australia, with a goal of building Reiss “into a truly global fashion brand,” David Reiss said in a statement about the deal.

That could mean the new Toronto stores are just the beginning of a broader Canadian presence for the fashion brand.

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Reiss is celebrating the launch of the new Sherway Gardens store with an opening party on Thursday, May 12, co-hosted by The Kit, complete with treats and drinks, and a chance to win a $1,500 Reiss wardrobe.

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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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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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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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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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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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