Canadian women's fashion retailer Aritzia makes plans to go public

After more than three decades, fashion retailer Aritzia is going public.

The Vancouver-based company announced Thursday that it plans on listing its shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The retailer says it wants to offer an undetermined number of shares at a price to be set later in the initial public offering process. The company will not receive any of the proceeds.

Founded in 1984, Aritzia designs and sells trendy clothing and accessories aimed at women between the ages of 15 to 45.

It opened its first store in Vancouver and now operates a network of 75 locations throughout Canada and the U.S. inside shopping malls and as stand-alone storefronts.

The company is co-owned by founder and chief executive Brian Hill and Boston-based investment firm Berkshire Partners, which has a majority interest. The two plan on controlling the company through multiple-vote shares.

In filings, Aritzia acknowledged that the Canadian retail industry is competitive but that it will achieve long-term profitability through a number of channels.

These include expanding and renovating its stores, growing its e-commerce business, innovating through its brands, and building its international presence.

“The difference is in the details,” Aritzia said in its preliminary prospectus.

“From the control that we maintain over the use of the Aritzia brand, to the high-quality materials and fabrics we use in all of our products, to the investment we make in our aspirational stores, to the care that we take in interacting with our customers, all the way to the design of our shopping bags which have been recognized for their creativity and innovation.”

Aritzia launched its e-commerce business in North America in late 2012, and plans on offering international shipping in the fall.

Online sales represented 12 per cent of total revenue for the company last year, a metric it wants to grow to 25 per cent by 2021. Aritzia says it also plans on opening between 24 to 30 new stores by end of that year.

The company’s filing says it aims to grow annual revenue to between $1.1 billion and $1.2 billion by the end of its 2021 financial year — more than double the $542.4 million in its 2016 financial year.

It’s aiming for between $115 million and $130 million of adjusted earnings by the end of its 2021 financial year, up from $32.4 million of net income and $40.6 million of adjusted earnings in its 2016 financial year.

It has been a tough few years for clothing retailers in Canada.

In May, teen-clothing chain Aeropostale announced it was shuttering all 41 of its stores in Canada amid intense competition from fast-fashion retailers such as H&M, Forever 21 and Old Navy.

Several long-standing retailers have also recently announced they’re closing down or reducing their footprint in Canada in the past few years, including Le Chateau, Danier Leather, Mexx, Smart Set and Jacob.

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