Thursday, 14 November 2013

Review: Toronto Shopkeeper Shops AllSaints

Edgy British brand makes its Canadian debut at Yorkdale.

Location: AllSaints, Yorkdale (3401 Dufferin Street, Toronto, ON)

Yorkdale has increasingly become a destination for first to market retailers in Canada and this spring AllSaints opened its first Canadian location there. The store opening marks a new wave of expansion for the retailer which has rebounded after suffering financial difficulties in 2011.

AllSaints is a brand with a finely tuned DNA, a British label that is both classic and trendy with a healthy dollop of vintage; a look that is echoed in its store design. Heavily influenced by an edgy London street aesthetic, AllSaints has a decidedly muted colour palette. Lovers of patterns or colour are advised that the new Kate Spade store is a few doors down.

Design: The AllSaints store measures 6,000 square feet and is found in the mall's recent southern expansion. Entering the store you pass under a wall of glassed-in vintage sewing machines (this quirky touch is repeated in all their stores and one imagines they must have a team scouring antique markets for vintage Singer sewing machines).

The store has a dimly lit loft/factory feel. The rails are distressed pipes, and the display tables look like clothes could have been sewn atop them (maybe with one of those Singer sewing machines). Underfoot is a distressed wooden flooring and the walls feature metal beams framing painted brick. Design wise the store is more Ossington Avenue than Yorkdale but provides a welcome dose of urbanity in suburbia.

Merchandise: To paraphrase Henry Ford, they have a garment in every colour you could want as long as its black. While the merchandise veers very heavily towards black, grey, and beige that is in many ways the whole point of the AllSaints brand. Basics with an edgy twist, signature leather jackets, and jeans with just the right amount of "wearing in." The target customer seems to be a hipster with cash who appreciates good design and isn't shy about paying for it.

Service: Unfortunately unique shop design and a compelling product offering are no substitution for great service. Visiting on a Saturday morning the store was fully staffed with a smattering of customers browsing. Passing three associates no one offered a greeting, nor when browsing the merchandise was any assistance offered. A second visit during the week offered an equally disinterested level of service which was hopefully both coincidental and atypical. 

Online: AllSaints excels with its online presence and offers shopping in Canadian dollars. Its website is easy to navigate with full collections for both men and women and provides the customer with immersion into the brand. Currently it's highlighting the new women's shoe collection with a series of unique films called "Below the Knee."

Grade: 55%

Lost marks for: A decidedly cool (in more ways than one) level of service which unfortunately detracts from many of the positive aspects of the brand.

Gained marks for: A great store design that really captures the urban essence of the brand, well designed and consistent collections, and an immersive website experience that makes buying that leather jacket a slightly friendlier experience than that found in store.