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Canada Goose moves into bigger plant in Winnipeg

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The temperature was near double-digit negative in mid-April for the official opening of the Canada Goose manufacturing plant in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

For Dani Reiss, owner and CEO of Canada Goose, it was exactly the right profile for his iconic Canadian-made product.

"The weather is perfect," said the owner of the company famous for making the warmest jackets on Earth.

The company only began manufacturing in Winnipeg two years ago when it acquired the former Engineered Apparel plant, its second company-owned factory to go along with one in Toronto. It also uses a network of about a dozen other third-party manufacturers across the country, some of which work exclusively for Canada Goose.

The Toronto-based outerwear manufacturer has now twice the space of its former Winnipeg location -- to 57,000 square feet with 160 workers, up from 130.

Reiss said the Winnipeg experience has worked well for the company, which makes some of the most expensive (and complicated) parkas on the market today.

"It's like our home away from home," he said.

Reiss believes Canada Goose will likely need to expand its Winnipeg workforce to 200 within the next year and with help of Yes! Winnipeg it has the confidence a sufficient labour pool exists as well as access to provincial training support.

Canada Goose is strident about its made-in-Canada policy. Reiss said just as a Swiss watch can't be made anywhere but Switzerland, Canada Goose apparel can't be made anywhere but Canada.

With sales growth last year of about 35 per cent -- well over $100 million -- the company continues to leverage its attractive brand into more high-end markets around the world and is now available in 40 countries. South Korea was the latest conquest last year with inventory selling out by November.

"They really love authentic, real products and that is what we represent," said Reiss.

With priceless promotion from celebrities -- such as the already classic shot of Kate Upton in a white Canada Goose bomber jacket (and nothing else) on the cover of this year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition -- the Canada Goose-Arctic Program logo is gaining plenty of high-end cachet.

And like many other luxury brands, it's rare to find Canada Goose jackets marked down and over time consumers have come to expect the $600-plus price tag.

But that level of demand has also made the brand vulnerable to knock-offs.

"We have a very significant counterfeit issue," Reiss said. "Our response to that is to take a leadership role in anti-counterfeiting legislation. It looks like the Canadian government is now making bold strides in that regard."

Canada Goose has helped promote legislation called the Combating Counterfeit Products Act that is currently before the House of Commons in Ottawa.

Among other things, it will give Canada Border Services Agency agents greater powers to seize suspected counterfeit products that cross the border.

Wayne Edwards, chairman of the Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network, said legislation currently under consideration in Ottawa is sorely needed.

"What's currently in place is very lax," Rogers said. "There's really not much anybody will do about (illegal knock-offs)."

Pat Martin, the NDP MP for Winnipeg Centre, the riding where the new Canada Goose plant is located, says he supports the proposed anti-counterfeiting law in particular because of the support it can provide Canada Goose, which he refers to as a "real Canadian success story."

"Canada Goose is one of the most widely counterfeited products out there," Martin said. "It is being knocked off with great and reckless abandon."

But Reiss said the company is determined to fight back and associates in China have caused several containers of fake Canada Goose product to be seized.

"There are a number of things we do, including lots of education," Reiss said. "The last thing we want is for people who think they are buying the real thing to buy a fake jacket. "

The company is diligent about listing all the authorized retailers -- including the online ones -- on its website.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 10, 2013 B5

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