As the ongoing diplomatic spat between Canada and China shows no sign of letting up, Toronto-based winter fashion brand Canada Goose continues to court the Chinese consumers that have become a crucial buyer base for its high-end parkas and down jackets. Following years of success attracting outbound tourist-shoppers to stores worldwide and, more recently, seeing Chinese consumers shopping locally, Canada Goose recently announced plans to double its retail footprint in China by opening four new stores in the country by March 2021 (representing 60% of its new stores globally).
In addition to taking advantage of increased domestic spending by Chinese consumers who can no longer take their usual trips to North America or Europe, Canada Goose hopes to latch on to China’s luxury rebound, which gained pace over the second and third quarters of the year and has seen other brands mount large-scale online and offline events to attract consumers who spent much of the first quarter in lockdown.
Ahead of the colder seasons, Canada Goose has had to think beyond store openings alone to keep itself front-of-mind among its target Chinese consumers — who have been subjected to a barrage of marketing activity this year. The brand is focusing strongly on direct-to-consumer (DTC) efforts both in China and globally, a move accelerated by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. In August, Canada Goose president and CEO Dani Reiss said, “Overall, the retail recovery in mainland China is ahead of other regions, and so serving the world’s largest luxury consumer at home has become increasingly crucial. We believe that our strategic approach to growing our mainland China DTC business this year has us very much on the right track.”
To stand out from the crowd, Canada Goose recently aimed to solve part of the travel problem by bringing parts of the shopping experience in its home country to Chinese consumers. A pop-up exhibition at the brand’s new Chengdu boutique was inspired by its cutting-edge immersive store at CF Sherway Gardens in Toronto. The interactive exhibition led visitors through various displays that reflected Canada Goose’s brand history and selling points while also including a sensory component via blasts of cold air, encouraging visitors to bundle up in a warm parka.
Alongside the Chengdu pop-up, Canada Goose also debuted a parkour-inspired WeChat game that let players outfit their avatars in Canada Goose apparel as they explore four seasons worth of outdoor settings en route to Chengdu.
Deeper online-offline integration in China, and the much-needed press it can attract, is crucial for Canada Goose as competition intensifies in the premium winter wear and outdoor sector. Rival Moncler has invested heavily in building its China presence over the past few years, and now boasts 39 stores nationwide, while recent collaborations with the likes of Rick Owens and Rimowa are sought after by China’s fashion elite. The Chinese-owned luxury outdoor label Arc’teryx and its even higher-end technical line Veilance (which also hail from Canada) are also making stronger moves into the China market, threatening to carve out market share previously cornered by Canada Goose.
Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Maxime Boucher recently said of Canada Goose’s stronger effort in the market: “Favoring mainland China for near-term store openings could bolster a winter recovery…. Two-thirds of Chinese luxury purchases were made abroad prior to the pandemic, so reaching these consumers while tourism remains heavily clipped will be key for all global brands.”
Will new store openings and a pop-up attended by actor Dou Xiao be enough to fend off stiffer winter apparel competition and attract consumers to buy domestically rather than wait for things to get back to normal(ish) and buy their cold-weather gear abroad? We may soon see as temperatures start to drop.