When it comes to uniquely Canadian brands, Canada Goose stands front and center. The Toronto-based manufacturer of down-filled winter jackets has built a reputation as a luxury brand ever since president and CEO Dani Reiss took over the company in 2001.
Long before it became the hottest trend in branding, Reiss built his Canada Goose’s image around the notion of authenticity. The company’s marketing has always focused on the quality of its made-in-Canada parkas, which are versatile enough to be worn by urban condo-dwellers and arctic explorers alike. It’s paid off—Canada Goose has made the PROFIT 500 Ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies for several years running, placing No. 101 on the 2015 list.
This year marks two big changes for the 59-year-old company: Canada Goose launched two retail storefronts, and is set to significantly expand its spring apparel line for 2017. Reiss outlined his plans for entering bricks-and-mortar and diversifying the firm’s product offerings, and explained what it takes to make “authentic” more than a branding buzzword.
PROFITguide: What’s next for the Canada Goose brand?
Dani Reiss: We’re opening our first-ever bricks-and-mortar store in the Yorkdale Shopping Centre on October 18, which is very exciting. It’s a place for our fans to come and congregate. Opening a physical retail store is something I wish we’d done sooner. Following on the heels of that we’ll be opening a store in SoHo, in New York. So that’s two stores in pretty short order, in two of the most important retail markets in the world.
Why the push into bricks-and-mortar storefronts?
We’ve been able to create a strong community, largely based on the strength of our product. But some of the best brands in the world have demonstrated that having a synergy between bricks-and-mortar retail and online retail can create a really powerful community. These days we’re seeing some of the best and strongest online brands—like Amazon, for example—starting to open actual retail stores. The synergy between physical storefronts and online sales are important.
How do you go about marketing the brand?
We’ve always tried to do things differently and swim upstream, and I think that’s more challenging and fun. In the early days we would make sure that the coldest people were wearing our stuff—we would make sure that the bouncers outside of nightclubs were wearing them, that scalpers outside of stadiums were wearing our products. Today those are no longer our tactics, but we don’t want to transition to being a brand that just does glossy ads in lifestyle magazines.
The most iconic item of Canada Goose apparel is your classic parka. Do you worry about people growing tired of that one signature product, as they did with brands like Ugg?
First and foremost, we make amazing products; second of all, we have a very diverse product range. We don’t make just one jacket, we make all different styles, weights, and kinds for different seasons. Our spring offering is getting stronger and stronger, and all of our products do very well. People don’t get tired of brands that continually innovate and bring the best products to the marketplace. I think that we’re one of those brands.
You’re working on developing your most extensive spring collection yet for 2017. Is it a risk to branch into lighter clothes, given the brand’s strong association with the cold?
People associate us with winter, with Canada, with protection from the elements, but also with things like craftsmanship. At the end of the day, the fans own the brand, and I think we have our fans’ permission to go into other categories, like spring.
What makes Canada Goose an “authentic” brand?
We don’t have to make stories up. We don’t have to fake it. We talk about the true experiences that people have wearing our products, sometimes in the harshest circumstances on earth, sometimes in urban places. These aren’t contrived marketing stories, they’re real and true. In a world today where everything is branded, I think when you encounter a brand like ours it really resonates with you. I think a lot of people try to replace authenticity with fancy marketing campaigns. We’re fortunate because we have a great heritage that we can draw on.
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