JNBY Struts its Stuff in Calgary

January 15, 2014

In early December, upscale ladies apparel retailer, JNBY, opened their first location in Alberta, at The Core in downtown Calgary. The new store is the company’s 4th Canadian location, and first store outside British Columbia. The premises (formerly occupied by Boutique of Leathers) is 1380 sq.ft and is located on the mall’s Plus 15 Level. Neighbouring tenants include Nine West, Marciano, Banana Republic, Browns, Judith & Charles. The store design is contemporary, elegant and chic and embraces the industrial post-modernist style.

JNBY is now prepared to look at opportunities in Toronto. The company hopes to enter the market early in 2014 with a pop up store. High pedestrian street-front locations (such as Queen St and Yorkville) are preferred. Super regional mall will also be considered. Size required is 1250-1750 sq.ft.

JNBY was founded in China, in 1994. The company’s name is an acronym for Just Naturally Be Yourself. JNBY’s apparel is original and innovative, design driven and often inspired by trends in fashion, art and industrial design. JNBY’s target customer is the fashion forward, urban, 20-40 year old female. Today, the company operates over 500 locations worldwide. 

For all of the information on JNBY, please visit their website at

The Core is located in the heart of downtown Calgary on 8th Avenue. The property spans three city blocks and consists of TD Square and the former Calgary Eaton Centre. The four level mall has 175 stores with a GLA of 566,959. The shopping centre is anchored by Holt Renfrew. Other major retailers include Harry Rosen, Brooks Brothers, H&M, Michael Kors, Aritzia, Sephora…etc. The Core is jointly owned by Alberta Investment Management (AIMCO) and Ivanhoe Cambridge.

Finally, I’d like to thank Stan Boniferro of 20 Vic (leasing manager for The Core) for his help in negotiating this agreement. Stan is a great leasing guy, very hard working and with a wealth of experience.

Bizou in Expansion Mode

December 02, 2013

November was a busy month for Bizou. The fashion accessories specialist opened three (3) new stores. Further, the company announced plans for additional expansion. 

Bizou recently opened locations at Galeries de la Capitale in Quebec City, Galeries de Hull and at Place Alexis Nihon in Montreal.  

As always, the stores are extremely well designed - chic and fun (see photo).  

In addition to the above, this year, the company has shown a strong commitment to upgrading its existing store fleet. In total, 14 stores were renovated in 2013.  

I spoke last week with Bizou’s CFO, Alain Duval, who notes that the company is very pleased with its performance and results. In this regard, comp store sales have increased 8.5% YTD. 

Looking forward, Bizou is aggressively looking to expand. The company anticipates the opening of 5 new locations in 2014. Markets of interest include Ontario, Maritime provinces, and Quebec. Super regional\regional malls and high pedestrian streetfront locations are preferred. Size required is 650-1000 sq.ft. 

Bizou was founded in 1982, and is privately owned by Marcel Labrecque. Today, the company operates over 130 stores in Canada. 

For additional information on Bizou, please visit their website at

Naturiste Re-Branded

November 25, 2013

Everything at Naturiste is new.

New name. Check. New logo. New website. Check and check again. New packaging and labels, new products, new store design, as well as, a new corporate culture and philosophy. Check.

When Stephen Rosenhek and Melanie Kau purchased Naturiste in November 2012, they were faced with many challenges and obstacles. The company they had acquired, while credible and well established (with unparalleled experience), had been neglected and had lost focus and direction. Now one year later, Naturiste has successfully developed and implemented a series of exciting new initiatives that have re-energized the brand.

The process began with a thorough evaluation of Naturiste’s mission, motivations, customer habits, and market trends. The results of the analysis facilitated a significant shift in both brand identity and core values, and subsequently, the company’s target market. Naturiste will now cater to a more youthful clientele - in their early 40’s. This new consumer is active and energized, mindful and communicative. 
Here’s an overview of some of the major changes.

Tradename & Logo - Naturiste is a company focused on natural products and natural solutions. In this regard the ‘r’ in Naturiste has been designed to look like a tree to help communicate a very strong tie to nature and health and wellness. A fresh new look. And yes, the ‘Le’ is no more. 

Website - Launched earlier this month, the new site is visually pleasing, more personalized, highly educational, with many unique features. Test your Health, Ask a Naturopath (for those of looking to know more about what ails them), a section dealing with  natural products for children. Healthy recipes; they got that too.

Packaging and labelling - I reached out to Nauriste co-owner, Stephen Rosenhek, to solicit his insight on the changes. Stephen noted that ‘consumers have indicated that they are confused about what exactly Natural Health Products (NHPs) do.  In order to help the consumer we have a multi-pronged approach.  Firstly, our products are arranged by product universe that address specific issues or themes.  i.e. Heart, Joint Care etc.  All of our products in a given product grouping will carry the same colour label to give the consumer a visual clue.  Such as all cardio products carry a red colour label.  Since some products can be useful in more than one category we developed a “pastille” (little colour coded icon indicating the product category) system so a label may have more than one pastille. All labels clearly say the name of the product and its principal benefits.  All products also show their Health Canada license number as well as the specific license information (product claim) that health canada has approved.  All of this is designed to give the consumer more information and clarity and assistance.’ The new approach is informative, smart, and simple to navigate.

Product development - The company is investing important capital in R&D. In September, Naturiste launched its own private, sport nutrition brand - PE 2.0. Also, the company is poised to introduce a natural sun cream line, as well, a new natural body care line. 

Store Design - Naturiste hired award winning retail designers GHA, to create an interactive, engaging customer experience that embodies company’s new vision and direction. The new design prototype feels natural and warm and incorporates a plethora of visual touch points. The renderings (see attached) are absolutely fantastic. This not your mother’s Naturiste.   

Naturiste has also become actively philanthropic and is now committed to giving back to the community. Recently, the company was the main sponsor of the Eye Disease Foundation and helped raise over $75,000.  Further, Naturiste has become the lead sponsor of the UQAM Citadins (representing amateur athletes at UQAM). Also, earlier this year, as part of a special promotion on women’s issues, Naturiste provided 10% of its sales revenue to numerous women’s shelters in Canada.

Stephen and Melanie have done an outstanding job re-positioning Naturiste. 

Brand revitalized - CHECK!

Naturiste plans to open 5 new locations in 2014. Markets of interest include Montreal, Gatineau and Ottawa. Naturiste prefers to locate in super regional centres. High pedestrian street front locations will also be considered. Size required 1000-1250 sq.ft.

Naturiste was founded in 1968 and was one of the first companies to promote a holistic approach to health and wellness. Today, Naturiste operates approximately 68 locations in Quebec and New Brunswick. Stores specialize in the sale of (i) vitamins; (ii) sport & health supplements (iii) health and beauty products; (iv) herbal & medicinal teas; (v) protein shakes. Stores also offer on-site seminars on such topics as health, medicine, sport, and nutrition.    

For all of the latest info regarding Naturiste, please visit their new website at

Lole Signs Lease at Square One

November 19, 2013

Ladies activewear specialist, Lole has confirmed its next Canadian store opening will be at Square One in Mississauga. The premises (currently occupied by Capezio) is 1,133 sq.ft and is located alongside such tenants as H&M, Gap, Express, Ann Taylor Loft, A\X Armani…etc. The store will open May 1, 2014.

Lole currently operates six Canadian locations, and is bullish on further expansion. Plans call for the opening of 6 new stores in 2014. Targeted markets include Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver. High street and super regional centres are preferred. Size required 1250-1600 sq.ft. 

This year the company opened 4 stores: West Edmonton Mall (the largest shopping centre in North America), and on Toronto’s posh, Yorkville Avenue. Lole also opened in Paris at Aéroville (centre). Finally, the company opens an outlet store next week, at One Nation in Val d’Isere, one of the most prestigious ski resorts in French Alps.

Lole’s performance continues to strongly impress and clearly, the brand and products are resonating. Comp store sales are up 30% YTD.  

In addition to the above, Lole hosted over 10,000 people this summer, to its White Yoga Sessions in Paris, Toronto, Salt Lake City and Montreal. These events were magical.

Lole is owned by Quebec based Coalision Inc, whose parent company is Kilmer capital (whose CEO is Larry Tanenbaum of Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment). In addition to Quebec, Coalision Inc operates offices in the US, France and Hong Kong. The company has a total of 13 Lole stores in Canada, US, France and Switzerland.

Square One is the largest shopping centre in the province of Ontario. 1.6 million sq.ft, with 350+ stores. The property is owned by OMERS and managed by Oxford Properties. The shopping centre is anchored by Walmart, Target, Empire Theatres. Other notable tenants include Apple, Coach, Michael Kors. Aritzia, Victoria Secret, Harry Rosen, Zara…etc. Oxford just completed an $84 million renovation to the property; the common areas, restrooms, escalators and entrances have all been upgraded. The mall looks stylish and feels vibrant. Further, Oxford recently announced that Holt Renfrew will open in 2016. Construction is now underway and this project has been estimated at $320 million.

As always, there is someone who I’d like to thank and bring attention to. I have known Janet Eden for quite some time (longer than either of us would like to admit). Janet works for Oxford and is the person with whom I negotiated Lole’s transaction. I am sure that my opinion is not unique when I say that it is always a pleasure to deal with Janet. She is extremely personable. Janet is also a tough cookie who demands and has earned the respect of her many colleagues and acquaintances.   

While I cannot let the cat out of the bag just yet, stay tuned to our website, for an announcement regarding the location of Lole’s 1st Canadian outlet location.  

For all of the latest on Lole, please visit their website at

Le Creuset Confirm Quebec City Opening

November 18, 2013

We are pleased to announce that (later this month) iconic cookware specialist, Le Creuset, will open a flagship store at Place St.Foy in Quebec City. The premises (formerly occupied by Simon Chang) is 1,448 sq.ft and is strategically situated on a corner, at the mall’s 50 yard line (for those not in the shopping centre industry, this term refers to the mall’s centre court or main intersection - where traffic is the highest). Neighbouring tenants include Banana Republic, Sephora, Aldo, Zara, Lacoste, Simon…etc.

The new store, the company’s 4th Canadian location will feature Le Creuset’s full line of products and include a section for cooking demonstrations with some of Canada’s top chefs.

Note - Le Creuset operate Canadian flagship stores in the following centres: Chinook Centre (Calgary), Sherway Garden (Toronto) and Carrefour Laval (Montreal).

Le Creuset is looking to expand further in Canada. Markets of interest include Edmonton, Ottawa and Vancouver. Size required 1250-1500 sq.ft. Super regional malls are preferred.

Le Creuset was founded 85 years ago in 1925 in Fresnoy Le Grand in northern France. The company is privately held (and financed) by Paul Van Zuydam, who acquired Le Creuset in 1987. Today there are 250+ Le Creuset stores in 24 countries including US, Canada, UK, Italy, China, Australia, Mexico, Japan, South Africa, Russia…etc.

Place St.Foy is owned by Ivanhoe Cambridge and is the top performing shopping centre in Quebec City. Sales have now reached $700 psf. The shopping centre has a GLA of 643,000 sq.ft with approximately 123 stores, and is anchored by Holt Renfrew, Simon, Atmosphere and Signature Maurice Tanguay. Further the centre is home to top globally recognized brands such as Apple, Michael Kors, BCBG, Guess by Marciano, Parasuco…etc. Place St.Foy attracts 9 million visitors annually.

I’d like to thank Elizabeth Lahaie of Ivanhoe Cambridge for all of her help in completing this transaction. Elizabeth worked extremely hard, was readily available to problem solve and was frequently creative.

For all of the news regarding Le Creuset, please visit their website at

US and International Retailers Set Sights on Canada

October 22, 2013

The list of US and international retailers that opened their 1st Canadian store(s), during the last year alone, is impressive to say the least.

Tory Burch
J Crew
Ann Taylor\Loft
John Varvatos
Kate Spade
David Yurman
Salvatore Ferragamo
Free People
Ted Baker
Brandy Melville
Tesla Motors
White House Black Market
Vince Camuto
Watch Station
Haggar Clothing

Not enough?

How about Target? The Minneapolis based company (who purchased Canadian department store chain Zellers) has now entered the market and will finish their first year with 120 stores. Target has announced plans to open 200 Canadian stores.

Still not enough (note - you're tough to satisfy!)?

Nordstrom has confirmed plans to open 25 Canadian locations (10 full priced & 15 Nordstrom Rack). Their first store is scheduled to open in September 2014, at Chinook Centre in Calgary

In addition to the above, companies such as Victoria Secret, H&M, F21, Zara, Marshalls, Walmart,…etc are also expanding in Canada at record paces.

Not to be outdone, Canada's own Hudson Bay Company, recently purchased Saks Inc. It is widely expected that store openings will soon follow.

Allow to me highlight the five (5) primary reasons that make Canada so appealing (to so many).

1) Canada's banking sector is amongst the strongest in the world;

2) Canada has a buoyant housing market, and consumer spending is robust;

3) Canada has less shopping centres per square foot than the US. Canada has 15 sq.ft of retail space per capita vs 24 sq.ft in the US;

4) With fewer places to shop, sales per square foot in Canada are 25% higher than the US - $600 psf vs $455 psf;

5) US retailers also charge higher prices for goods, in Canada;

The vast majority of our international clients have experienced phenomenal success in Canada. Their Canadian sales eclipse US performance by > 25%. Commensurately, many of these great brands have significantly increased their Canadian open to buy for 2014\15 as well, their projected Canadian store counts.

BOTTOM LINE - Canada's fertile economy and ideal retail landscape have proven to be the perfect tonic for these growth-minded US and international retailers.

There is another factor underlying the decision of many retailers to expand (now) into Canada, that I'd like to quickly address.

Many of the new to market retailers have extensively developed real estate portfolios in their home countries and top-line expansion opportunities have been saturated. For these top brands, it has been years since they have opened locations in markets half the size of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa…etc. These Canadian cities are far more dense, lucrative, and attractive as compared to those remaining smaller market sites.

Think Retail has developed and successfully implemented Canadian market entry strategies and national real estate plans for globally recognized brands such as American Apparel, Pinkberry, Fossil, Le Creuset, Bare Escentuals, Johnny Rockets, Quiksilver, Lole, Crabtree & Evelyn…etc. On behalf of these best in class retailers, we secure flagship real estate locations in all major Canadian cities.

Coming to Canada? We are here to help!