Last month our client Smartwool launched its new Canadian flagship retail store in Banff, Alberta. We saw tons of excitement and engagement from fans, so we thought we’d find out a bit more about this unique apparel store and the vision behind it. We caught up with Smartwool’s Director of Retail Robin Hall and the new store’s owner and manager Dave MacDowell for some insights.
Origin: Most brands nowadays launch stores that they manage and operate entirely. What was the motivation behind a partner-store?
Robin Hall: Partner stores provide truly the best of both worlds for Smartwool and the Retailer. The Retailer is the expert in the market and knows how to bring the brand to life with consumers through fun and exciting retail experiences and with educated and friendly floor staff. The Smartwool brand is able to showcase its products and provide support through visuals, education and storytelling. The collaboration makes for a great addition to the community.
Origin: How does this new store design fit in with your retail experience in other locations? What's unique about this one?
Robin Hall: Our retail store design continues to evolve with every store that we open, based on the location, community and retail space. What we love about the Banff store is that it truly brings the outdoors inside. Everyone that walks through the doors instantly feels the warmth of the mountains through the different woods and textures, brand storytelling and localized artwork. In addition, the store has a ‘gallery’ feel where the product is showcased on the fixtures, the sightlines are long for ease of shopping and interacting and the imagery on the large video screen provides glimpses of the majestic Canadian Rockies. The center island offers space to hang out, try on shoes or just soak in the environment.
Origin: What variables did you take into considerations in the design of this new store? Can you share your approach/process when it comes to a unique mountain location like Banff's?
Robin Hall: We used local contractors and stone and wood inside to make guests feel like they are in the outdoors. The artist for the large mural used a local map from 1951 that showcases the Banff and Lake Louise mountain areas to inspire exploration and outdoor adventures in the majestic peaks around the store.
Origin: From a timing standpoint, how much time does it take for a brand to launch a store like this? Give us a sense of the overall timeline
Robin Hall: This effort was roughly a 3-4 month process from initial ideas for the store to opening. We took our time working with local partners to select the right materials and textures for the store. The collaboration across all parties – retail operations, visual, marketing, store management – was seamless and inspiring.
Origin: What's your advice for other outdoor sport brands launching new (first) brick and mortar retail locations?
1) Ensure you take the time to get to know and cater to the community – it will be more fulfilling and enjoyable for you and for the community.
2) The old adage is so true: location, location, location.
3) Surround yourself with bright, fun-loving, passionate people for project execution.
4) Build your store to be the true and best manifestation of the brand, from fixtures to staff training. The space will exude love if you put love into it.
Origin: Dave - you've owned and operated several stores in your career, tell us about the motivation to work with Smartwool?
Dave Macdowell: I've been a big fan of the Smartwool goods, ever since I tried on my first pair of their socks 20 years ago.
Since that time I've watched the brand offering grow from socks, to this amazing mix of comfortable, versatile clothing and accessories we see today.
Beyond the product offering. it's been Smartwool's brand culture and values that ultimately had me hooked.
Origin: Tell us about your vision for this store and how it fits in the Banff community?
Dave Macdowell: Our vision for Smartwool Banff was to create a space that brings the outdoors inside. We wanted the in store journey to be very organic and tactile, giving customers the chance to slow down and discover how merino will enhance their adventures outdoors. The idea was make this an interpretive shopping experience.
By combining elements of art and the inclusion of outdoor partners in the community, we hope to align Smartwool with Banff's unique mountain culture.
Origin: What is your biggest hope for this new store?
Dave Macdowell: I would like to give our customers a sense of what this brand and its values are all about. I want them to build a relationship with Smartwool they will take home and share.
Like it says on our wall...."We want to bring smiles and joy to every trailhead, crag, camp and powder turn."
As Smartwool fans ourselves, we’re excited to see customers walking through the door of this retail store rich in mountain culture. For more information and the latest news, visit the Smartwool Banff Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/smartwoolbanff/