Category Archives: New Store Openings

The latest update on new boutiques opening around town

Style by Fire featured on CTV News!

Miranda CTV 2

Click here to watch the CTV interview.

This is kinda crazy, but it happened.

I received an interview request from CTV and a few short hours later reporter Shannon Paterson and I were shop-talking in front of Victoria’s Secret at Robson and Burrard – downtown Vancouver’s new retail hotspot. She found me via an article I had just written about Shoppers’ new BeautyBoutique for Retail Insider (check out their awesome website!).

I’m sitting in front of my computer and I still can’t believe this happened, and I’m really grateful that it did. I don’t think I would have even dared put a media appearance on this year’s list of resolutions!

Though my CTV interview might seem out of the blue, Style by Fire’s been 5+ years in the making. So I really shouldn’t be too surprised.

When I interned in New York, my uncle and I had many chats about life, career, politics, and other worldly things he was interested in. A lot of our conversations stayed with me, especially his open-minded views on work and opportunity. At the time, I was struggling to find a job in the States, and after realizing my degree wasn’t specialized enough to apply for work visas (ahem, like being a soil scientist), I got deeply discouraged.

Then with his lighthearted c’est la vie chuckle, he let me in on his secret: “Opportunity takes hard work… and luck. You need to work hard to prepare for something, and when opportunity strikes, you seize it.”

That’s exactly how I feel.

When I got the green light from my manager to take off early (DC you’re the best!), and confirmed with Shannon, I knew exactly what I needed to do. I went home, “clownified” my makeup for the camera, researched the latest downtown Vancouver retail stories, got some good advice from Retail Insider, made sure to wear something that stood out on camera, and walked into the interview knowing this was my opportunity to seize.

Thanks so much to the team at Retail Insider who gave me the opportunity to write that article!

xo, Miranda

PS Watch the interview on CTV!

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Shoppers Drug Mart to open flagship Beauty Boutique in Downtown Vancouver

Shoppers Drug Mart BeautyBoutique Beauty Boutique Vancouver Burrard Street Colin Arber Retail Insider

This article was first posted on Retail Insider.

Sources tell us that Shoppers Drug Mart will open a 4,100 square foot standalone flagship BeautyBoutique in downtown Vancouver, next to the world’s second-largest Victoria’s Secret store. The street-level store will replace retailer ‘Off The Wall’ and will feature a Burrard Street frontage. It will compete with a new, massive Sephora store scheduled to open next winter on the 1000 block of Robson Street, only a couple hundred feet away.

BeautyBoutique layout

Shoppers first debuted its high-end enhanced BeautyBoutique concept last year at Toronto’s Bayview Village Shopping Centre; the second opened in the Toronto EatonCentre this past summer.

Downtown Vancouver has several major cosmetic retail competitors, including Sephora. In addition to its current location at Pacific Centre, Sephora will also be opening one of its largest Canadian locations on Robson Street in the winter of 2014. Other competitors have either been upping their game or preparing for their entry into the Vancouver market. Hudson’s Bay, for example, has been putting much effort into the ongoing revitalization of its Downtown Vancouver flagship store. Its expanded cosmetics floor is close to an acre in size and is now the largest in Western North America. Holt Renfrew continues to show strong cosmetics sales, and future Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenuestores will even further increase competition for Downtown Vancouver’s cosmetics dollar.

With all of these different cosmetics retailers in Downtown Vancouver, it’s hard to say whether BeautyBoutique will create any extra excitement for Vancouver shoppers. Competition will be fierce. Shoppers Drug Mart already has an existing higher-end concept, Murale, though it hasshuttered two of eight locations across Canada. Let’s take a look at the differences between Murale and the new enhanced BeautyBoutiques, and how the new concept might prove successful.

Shoppers 1

For those unfamiliar with Murale, it is an offshoot brand launched in 2008 by Shoppers Drug Mart to move into the high-end cosmetics category. Murale’s brands include Bobbi Brown, Anna Sui, Cargo, Caudalie, Nars and more. These brands make a distinct differentiation between drug store brands such as Maybelline and L’Oréal, but share some crossover brands like Clinique and Stila. The store design is clean and minimal, with a lot of white space, and merchandising isn’t structured in aisles as in the drug store BeautyBoutiques.

Introduced in 2003, the in-store Shoppers Drug Mart BeautyBoutiques occupy prominent real estate, many of which have separate entrances to create a different experience for cosmetics lovers. The South Granville location in Vancouver, in particular, takes up the majority of the second floor of the neighbourhood Shoppers Drug Mart.

Shoppers 2

The new “enhanced” BeautyBoutique takes the in-store concept one step further by bringing in higher end brands (Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, for example) and stepping up the store design, which was inspired by a gift box, and the unravelling of a ribbon to reveal a gift. According to Shoppers, “The ribbon concept can be seen in the elements of the store design including the digital signage wrapped around the boutique and the finishing elements extending over the fixtures to the ceiling.” In a nutshell, it’s a Sephora-like experience.

If one high-end Shoppers beauty concept (Murale) didn’t work out, why would the company repeat similar efforts? One reason could be because a new store like Murale might have required stronger branding support for customers to understand its relationship to Shoppers Drug Mart. On the other hand, the new high-end beauty concept is also located separately from Shoppers, and it was a great idea to leverage off the existing BeautyBoutique name instead of creating a whole new brand like Murale, even though the BeautyBoutique brand seems strong enough on its own. According to Sandra Sanderson, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Shoppers, in a Chain Drug Review article, when consumers heard about BeautyBoutique they already had the impression it was a separate store. We don’t know whether they had done similar research with Murale.

Shoppers 3

There’s also a direct correlation between Shoppers’ BeautyBoutiques and its popular Shoppers Optimum rewards program. This may be a key difference between it and Murale. If consumers didn’t know Murale was a Shoppers concept, for example, there would have been less incentive to shop there. This is especially the case since Sephora has a strong Beauty Insiders loyalty program. Lastly, we’ll have to see whether the new enhanced BeautyBoutique will help drive online sales, as Amazon, Walmart, and Sephora’s e-commerce platforms are highly competitive whereas cosmetics sold at Shoppers Drug Mart concepts rely heavily on foot traffic.

If the enhanced concept proves successful, it might be in Shoppers’ best interest to shutter the Murale chain and concentrate on what’s working. Either way, it will be interesting to see another beauty giant enter Downtown Vancouver’s retail landscape.

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Experience Headphones: For the Fashion-Conscious Shopper


Experience Headphones opened on Saturday, November 30th on South Granville. This Vancouver’s first techie headphones boutique that’s geared toward the fashionista: their lines of headphones include leather-wrapped earbuds by Molami to a Rebecca Minkoff collection with FRENDS. Apparently fashion-forward headphones represent a $1.6 billion market, and continues to grow at 20% per year.


Experience Headphones Inc. was founded in July 2013 by Dean Horsfield, a former employee of Best Buy Corporate headquarters in Burnaby, Canada. He saw an opportunity to capitalize on the booming trend of fashion-forward headphones, and after unsuccessfully pitching the idea to Best Buy decided to build out the concept on his own. The company now has over 100 SKU’s from 11 different brands and is in talks with another three brands to be added early in the New Year. It also has a solid plan for expansion: 2 more stores are planned for the Vancouver market (at Metorotwn and YVR) before expanding to cities in other provinces.

The design of the store could easily remind your average consumer of an Apple store, but that’s a good thing since both brands cater toward a stylish shopper. Row upon row of listening stations line the store down both walls. The wooden floor and resting board for the headphones brings some nature into the store. The design could have went fully minialistic, clean, and white. But I feel that a touch of nature softens the look, and prevents the store from having an overly clinical atmosphere.


To be quite honest, I didn’t even know this segment of the market existed until fairly recently. But now that I know about it, I can’t help but think that the marketers behind these headphone brands, as well as Experience, did a great job with their products! I don’t think I want anything else other than stylish headphones!


“We started as an online shop but saw a gap in the market to open a storefront where customers can actually try on and experience the headphones, says CEO and Co-Founder, Dean Horsfield. He adds, “We are ushering in a new way of thinking about music marketing and consumer preferences by focusing on the experience. How you feel when you wear your headphones, how they sound when you plug them in, and how they look when you wear them on the street.”

I love that everything in the store is on display for shoppers to interact and play with. If Dean’s idea was given the green light by Best Buy execs, the headphones would likely be behind secured display cases.

What’s stopping you from experiencing stylish headphones?

Experience Headphone is located at 3057 Granville St.

Photos via Experience Headphones

Words by Miranda Sam

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Park Royal’s $150 Million Retail Expansion

Park Royal-08

So it has begun. Part of Park Royal‘s $150 million expansion and renovation was officially unveiled this past Saturday, November 30th, 2013. The expansion project includes 300,000 square feet of new retail space, some of which shoppers can experience as part of Park Royal South.

Style by Fire was there on the grand opening day, observing festivities such as opening remarks by the Mayor of West Vancouver, a speech by Rick Amantea, Park Royal’s VP of Community Partnerships & Development, and blessing ceremonies by Squamish Nation representatives as Park Royal sits on Native land. Two art pieces were unveiled during the ceremony, one of which is pictured above.

Stores opened in time for the launch included Ann Taylor’s LOFT, Sephora, Anthropologie, LUSH Cosmetics, J.Crew and Zara.


LOFT Park Royal Storefront 1

Photo via Edelman

According to Retail Insider, LOFT opened its first Vancouver-area store on November 15th. The younger sister line to Ann Taylor, LOFT opened its first store in Yorkdale in 2012. This one in Park Royal marks its 6th in a year’s time. We can see rapid expansion from this brand, which I’m sure has been very well received.

When we checked out the store, I was surprised to find the price points in a fantastic price range. Many items were under $100.

Sarah Bancroft, editor of Vitamin Daily, hosted the store opening. She had a rack of Editor’s Picks, which included the versatile black she’s seen wearing.


Anthropologie opened its 2nd location at Park Royal, the first being on South Granville. In other cities I’ve traveled to, I’ve always noticed there was an Anthropologie in the main downtown core. In Vancouver, it’s not quite the case. Both South Granville and West Vancouver are considered more destination shopping areas, as in most of the folks in Vancouver must make a special trip out there. I’m not certain whether this is simply a case of availability and timing in terms of real estate. But with the higher price points, a slower introduction to higher-traffic shopping areas, and building a solid fan base in premium markets might be a good bet.

As always, Anthropologie has unbeatable merchandising. We saw some of the nicest styled dining tables there! Shoppers here, however, do pay a premium for the extravagant decor. Picking up a simple printed greeting card, I thought might be something around $5; turned out to be $8. Just because I’m a budget shopper doesn’t mean everyone else is. On Park Royal’s opening day there was no shortage of shoppers flying through Anthropologie’s doors.


The 3rd J. Crew at Park Royal follows Vancouver’s first on Robson Street, and the second in Pacific Centre. A move to reach non-downtown residents makes total sense for this brand. Although I’m sure a huge portion of their fans are corporate workers, the relaxed casual styles the brand offers definitely fits the West Van demographic.

One shopping conundrum I always have is with winter coats. If it looks pretty, it’s not warm. Or vice versa. This orange jacket I tried on is seriously one of the best I’ve tried on in the past few years! It’s your standard double-breasted coat that comes in an intersting orange colour.

It’s no surprise when I looked at the tag inside, it read “Stadium Cloth by Nello Gori.” According to the J.Crew website, their stadium cloth is exclusively made by the famed Italian Nello Gori factory inspired by fabric used in old-school stadium blankets. It’s “a compact, high-density wool that adds tremendous warmth without the bulk.”

Warmth and style. I like.

Zara Man

Impressive army-like mannequins greet incoming customers

Impressive army-like mannequins greet incoming customers

This is one of the largest Zara locations in Vancouver, with the men’s section taking up as much real estate as the women’s. We walked in through Zara Man, and were greeted by an army of 6 mannequins. The rest of the store was equally impressive. For me, it was the first time seeing such a grand display of men’s clothing in compartments. Shoppers would go through various sections of the store, as if it were different closets to choose from.

Store design wise, I also loved the huge TV screen above the cash desk. What better way to keep a man entertained during the act of shopping. Although the stylish men who come through the store are likely more than willing to be there. Also loved the accessories section where scarves, bow ties, hats, and fragrances were neatly displayed in a much more organized and high-end manner. If you check out the Zara at Park Royal, I recommend going in through the men’s side first.

Zara Woman

Photos by Aurora Chan and Miranda Sam (unless otherwise noted)

Words by Miranda Sam

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Joe Fresh Opens 3rd Vancouver Location on Robson Street

Joe Fresh Robson-01

A third Joe Fresh store has arrived to keep its sister store on Granville Street and North Vancouver company, this time on the pivotal Robson shopping strip.  It officially opened on Black Friday, November 29th at 7am.  And to salute the adoption of the US version of Boxing Day, Joe Fresh is offering a buy one, get the second at 50% off special until Sunday December 1st (excluding jewellery, sunglasses, and cosmetics).

Joe Fresh Robson-02

The new Fresh on the block is basically a compact version of its Granville counterpart at 2000 square feet.  Taking up one loft style floor, a focused selection of all the main lines can be found, including women’s business, casual, and sleepwear, as well as men’s casual.

In anticipation of the impending holiday season, a significant portion of the current stock is blinged out with sequins, gold threading, and lace.  Even the puffy vests are sequined on the front!

Joe Fresh Robson-07

One curious note about the fitting rooms – the doors are completely mirrored on the outside which looks very sleek and modern; however, you need to squat down and reach under the door to open it.  Maybe this is a way to get the staff to get a bit of a workout while working?

Joe Fresh Robson-03

I’m a loyal Joe Fresh customer myself, or more accurately, my lips are.  They are loving the lip glosses which come as a wand in a tube.  Most glosses are just about glossiness, while Fresh’s contain equal parts pigment and gloss.  So your lips are not only shiny, they get a dash of colour as well.  Give them a try, they’re only $8!  Only available at the Granville store (perhaps the North Van location) and the Joe Fresh cosmetics section in Superstore.

Joe Fresh is located at 1164 Robson Street. Store hours Monday to Saturday are 9am – 9pm, Sunday 10am-8pm.

Photos + Words by Aurora Chan

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New Store Alert: Oak+Fort Relocates to a Larger Location in Gastown


Friday, November 15th marked the first day Oak + Fort moved into their bigger retail space in Gastown at 355 Water St. The new location of this favourite local brand is approximately 4 times larger than their previous space a few blocks down on the same street. And it only took the team exactly one month to put the store together.


I love that the store has a bigger gallery space to display its products, which in their own right, are works of art. The ambience of the white walls acts as a white canvas for the shop; the wooden beams on the wall and industrial touch of the merchandising racks give the store a nod to its Gastown heritage.

Some of my favourite items in the store is the jewelry. Though it won’t last you a lifetime, Oak + Fort is definitely one of the best places to get stylishly subtle jewellery. Earlier this year I got one of my favourite rings there – and I’m seriously not a ring person.


On the left, the Jesidan sweater in beige is priced at $78, and on the right, the Edgar coat in grey with contrast sleeves is at $248. I love that Oak + Fort delivers progressive pieces easily integrated into any wardrobe at such great price points.

I was quite impressed with the fitting rooms; I felt that there were some really good details put into its design. For example, change room mirrors outside of the dressing room never seem to be big enough when there’s another person who’s trying to share the mirror with you. They’ve got this super tall and wide mirror can probably fit at least 4 or 5 people across. When I stood in front of it, I felt that its vastness made a difference because not only can you navel-gaze and see yourself, you can see yourself interact with the surrounding environment.

Another detail I noticed was the width of the opening of the fitting rooms. They are not your usual door width, and because of the narrower space, you feel more secure in the fitting room. The curtain rods extend past the opening so you feel like you can actually close it shut. This was something I failed to do at the previous location, so it was definitely noticeable at the new store. Mix it all together and you have a pretty shopper-friendly space.



What’s in the future for Oak + Fort? This brand quickly grew in popularity among the fashion crowd, and will now be growing to other fashion cities in Canada. Two stores in Toronto are expected to open in Spring 2014 on Queen Street and in the Don Mills neighbourhood.  And if things go as planned, another location will be popping up in Calgary next spring too.


Though I didn’t get much of a chance to shop for myself, I’m sure looking forward to the next time.

Photos + Words by Miranda Sam

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New Store Opening: Moulé South Granville

Moule South Granville-07

This year has been a busy and fruitful year for everyone at Moulé. This spring the family-run business closed their Park Royal location to open up in trendy Yaletown. The West 4th location in Kitsilano, home of the first Moulé location for over 20 years, gave way to the opening of the new South Granville location on October 18th.

Jewelry designer Jessica Jansen has her organic inspired lien of jewelry carried at Moulé

Jewelry designer Jessica Jansen has her organic inspired lien of jewelry carried at Moulé

When I spoke with District Manager, Sabine Costello, she mentioned that West 4th has changed a lot in the past few years. What was once a go-to neighborhood for shoppers seeking independent boutiques and designers has now become a shopping destination more similar to Robson. Sabine mentioned that the future of fashion retail would be in areas like South Granville, which is one reason that prompted the move.

Check out the family portraits on the wall

Check out the family portraits on the wall

Through a rebranding process, the interiors of the new stores have a much more organic feel. At South Granville, the windows are framed with hanging ferns. And behind the cash desk, family portraits are displayed in a mosaic behind a royal navy wall.

Another reason behind the move was to occupy a smaller space that better reflects the family-like environment. Though the Kitsilano location was beautiful and gallery-like, its vast real estate couldn’t convey the feeling of a tight-knit family run business whose staff fosters very close relationships with customers. At 2800 square feet, customers are sure to feel a different kind of closeness with the product and the staff.

Rachel Gorenstein, designer of Rachel Mara, with one of her favourite pieces

Rachel Gorenstein, designer of Rachel Mara, with one of her favourite pieces

Later in the evening at the grand opening party, we had the chance to speak with Rachel Mara designer, Rachel Gorenstein. Silk blouses have been a very successful piece in her line, and we wondered about what inspires her to design. For Rachel, her inspiration comes from somewhere internal. She said, “I don’t think I’ve ever been about chasing the trend.”

The Rowallan travel-friendly jewellery case

The Rowallan travel-friendly jewellery case

I also ended up getting the perfect gift for a friend with the generous gift card the Moulé team gave me. It’s a travel-friendly jewelry case by Scottish leathergoods company, Rowallan.

Congrats to the Moulé team on the new South Granville store!

Photos by Aurora Chan

Words by Miranda Sam

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Retail Alert: Old Navy Opens New Store in Downtown Vancouver

Old Navy-16

Old Navy has finally arrived in Vancouver proper, and not only that, it has landed the prime real estate at the busy corner of Robson and Granville.  It’s been years since I’ve been in their store, a big reason being that it would take me 30 minutes to get to the nearest location at Metropolis Metrotown.  Now it’s a much too convenient 5 minute stroll from my office.

Historically, Old Navy has been known to me as the lower end version of The Gap.  Walking into their shiny huge two-level institution, I could see that although this may still be true, they’ve expanded and upscaled their branding over the years.  In a nutshell, they basically cover every spectrum of leisure activity one might engage in, from hiking up the Chief to couch surfing at home.  And what brand located in Vancouver doesn’t corner the yoga/active wear market as well.  Old Navy is all about the basics and providing multitudes of it in different colours, all at very reasonable prices.

The ground floor was dedicated to the women, starting with the very basic plain tank top, all the way to full winter coats.  The second floor was for the men and children.  The children’s line was where the fun really was, with adorable Ninja Turtles and Toy Story t-shirts with stuck-on googly eyes and tiny toques emblazoned with the Spiderman and Batman logos.  There was even a karaoke rocket ship catered for tots with retro 50’s bebop tunes playing inside with words you could sing along to.  How many stores offer the option for tired mothers and their brood to engage in a singing break in the middle of shopping?

An expedition to a clothing store isn’t complete without a bit of retail therapy.  My virgin purchase was a sand coloured long sleeved waffle top with a cute red fox on the front for $16.94 (see photo).  What does the fox say? Old Navy, duh.  I’ve always loved waffle tops – they’re a great alternative to a t-shirt for colder days with its slightly thicker material that adds substance and structure so it’s not clinging to your bulges and yet still outlines your form.  I love them so much that I bought two; the second one was off-white and plain on special for $6!

As I was wandering around, the countdown to the soft opening of the store was quickly approaching at just an hour away.  All the staff gathered around the ringleader for one last pep talk.  There was a lot of whooping and high fives; it was encouraging to see the morale was on high and the troop’s faces looked sincerely shiny and happy to serve the onslaught of eager shoppers.

Old Navy has its official grand opening this Friday, November 15th, with the first 500 shoppers receiving a free tote giveaway.  On Saturday the 16th, the first 500 lucky shoppers to make any purchase will receive a women’s puffy vest.  Just another incentive to check out the newest addition to hit the crucial Robson corridor!

Words + Photos by Aurora Chan

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Tory Burch Opens First Standalone Store in Vancouver

Tory Burch-4

The third Canadian Tory Burch location officially opened in Vancouver on 1092 Alberni Street on Saturday, October 19th. Locations in Toronto and Calgary preceded our city’s store. (If you’re thinking “Calgary before Vancouver?!” you’re not alone. Apparently the Chinook Mall in Calgary is quite the hot spot.) Aprecursor to the public launch was a friends & family gathering on the night before. I was surprised to learn of such a low key opening for this coveted brand.

Photo c/o @toryburch

Photo c/o @toryburch

Photo c/o Dress to Kill Magazine

Photo c/o Dress to Kill Magazine

The store occupies 2 floors separated by type of product: the entrance level houses the latest clothing and accessories like gloves while merchandising in handbags. Up on the second floor you’ll find a beautifully ‘gold-plated’ handbag room with built-in shelving. According to Dress to Kill Magazine, “White-washed oak floors, gold leaf chandeliers and raffia walls serve as neutral backdrop for a one of a kind mix of furnishings in a vibrant palette – teal velvet sofas, seafoam taffeta drapes and green lacquer shelving.” Stepping into the shoe parlour, you’ll find a distinctly different feel: two face to face love seats anchor the room, creating an intimate shopping experience for the serious shopper. Row upon row of Reva ballet flats line the shoe section so you don’t have to worry about a lack of colour choices or running out of your size.


Tory Burch Robinson

The one thing I narrowed it down to was the Robinson mini shoulder bag. Given that most handbags I have are black with gold detailing, I tried to stay away from that colour combo. And the next best thing was the one in “Luggage.” But when it came down to it, my friend convinced me that this was too “daytime” of a colour if my goal was to get an evening clutch. Oh well, back to black and gold?!

Whenever you get the chance to pass through Alberni Street (aka Affluent Alley), leave us a comment below of what you think of the new store!

By Miranda Sam

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Joe’s Jeans to Open at Oakridge November 2013

Joe's jeans Oakridge-2

I stopped by Oakrdige Centre, and noticed that Joe’s Jeans will be arriving at the mall soon. Personally I don’t have that much experience with the brand, as there aren’t many places in the city that carry it. The only pair of Joe’s I have is a pair of knee-length crops I picked up from Nordstrom Rack. Hopefully Vancouverites will get to know the brand better through the first Canadian Joe’s Jeans location.

Joe's jeans Oakridge-1

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