boathouse canada

Boathouse is taking over Le Chateau stores in Toronto and across Canada

Long before West 49 brought skate and snowboard brands to suburban malls across Canada, and even before PacSun turned California youth culture into a physical commodity, there was the Ontario-based "active lifestyle apparel" store Arlies.

Founded in St. Catherine's circa 1973, that small business went on to become what we now know as Boathouse; purveyor of all the Volcom t-shirts and Etnies millennials wore in high school (as well as the Champion hoodies and Carhartt hats everyone wears today.)

The cyclical nature of mainstream fashion, which at present is dominated by heavily-branded athleticwear and streetwear, has been good to stores like Boathouse, which trade in goods manufactured by popular third party brands.

Very good, apparently.

You see, unlike so many other retail chains that have been struggling (if not folding) amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Boathouse appears to be thriving.

The company currently boasts roughly 90 locations across Canada, as well as 20 Blackwell footwear stores and, according to Retail Insider, they're now on the expansion path.

Interestingly, the death of another iconic canadian clothing brand is helping the process along.

As reported by Retail Insider, Boathouse is "expanding its footprint across Canada seeking out retail spaces recently vacated by Le Chateau."

Boathouse, still headquartered in St. Catharine's, has reportedly already commited to take over the spaces vacated by Le Chateau in Toronto's Scarborough Town Centre and Kitchener's CF Fairview Park Mall, along with eight others aross the country.

"They're going to do well for us because they're large. Most of the locations are over 6,000 square feet with the biggest one being at the Kingsway Mall in Edmonton which is close to 8,000 square feet," said the company's Director of Sales and Operations, Janet Weatherhead, to Retail Insider.

"We can really showcase our brands well in that space and we do carry an extensive shoe selection. The more square footage we have, the more we can showcase our shoes as well."

In a particularly cool move, Boathouse is actually reaching and trying to hire former employees of Le Chateau, which announced its official closure in October after more than 60 years.

"Going forward we decided that we had to give them the first shot at any positions that were open," said Weatherhead.

"In Le Chateau's case, at one time they were at the forefront of retail. There's so much to learn from that company. In my opinion, they started Canadian retail women's fashion. I think a lot of the practices and processes that they championed were put into place by many other companies.

It's not often that clothing stores announce expansion plans in this kind of economic climate, but the family-owned, homegrown retailer seems to be banking on multiple generations of what Weatherhead calls "brand conscious consumers.

"We believe in giving our consumers the trendiest and hottest brands in the market right now. But we also believe in catering to the customer who’s been with us for the past 20 years," she said.

"Some of our customers have worn Billabong when they were young and continue to wear Billabong."

Lead photo by

Tecumseh Mall

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