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‘A lot bigger, a lot better’

Aritzia’s new space three times the size of its former store, includes A-OK Café

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Kennedy Cook was worried.

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Kennedy Cook was worried.

“I think I might have a problem (of) not being able to stop (shopping),” she said.

In her hands: hangers draped with Babaton clothing. Around her: shoppers bustling through the newly opened Aritzia, which is three times the size of the chain’s previous CF Polo Park location.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Aritzia’s new store on the first floor of CF Polo Park. The new space is three times the size of the chain’s former store in the mall.

“It’s my heaven,” Cook said. “I love it.”

She joined the throngs looking for back-to-school clothing earlier this week. For many, online shopping won’t replace the in-person experience.

“It’s a lot better, a lot bigger,” Brooklyn Dunlop said of the more than 15,000-square-foot Aritzia.

She’d been a shopper of the previous space which was a mere 5,000-square-feet. That one opened in 2008, but Aritzia “quickly outgrew” it, a company spokesperson said.

Dunlop said she fell in love with a pair of black pants on Monday. After shopping around, she returned to Aritzia Tuesday to make the purchase.

“I prefer in-person so I can try it on,” Dunlop said. “That way, I don’t have to go through the hassle of returning and everything.”

Mirrors framed by lights and a screen showing internet influencer Emma Chamberlain, who gained prominence via YouTube, were among the shop’s decorations.

“This is a time where a lot of retailers might see… an opportunity to establish presence at a cost which is probably much lower,” said Sandeep Arora, a University of Manitoba business professor.

Mall space is less expensive due to increased vacancies, Arora said.

Meaghen Johnston, and her daughters Halle and Jane, bypassed all other stores for Aritzia.

“We probably wouldn’t have come to Polo if this wasn’t here,” Halle, a Grade 8 student, said. “We would’ve gone to the outlets.”

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Aritzia’s new store on the first floor of CF Polo Park includes a coffee shop.

She held a vanilla latte. Her mother had a coffee, and her sister a lavender iced tea. They’d come from an Aritzia spin-off — A-OK Café.

The eatery is new to Winnipeg, attached to the retailer and offering coffees and pastries to shoppers.

“We thought it was a good, fun outing for us to come and do together,” Meaghen said, adding that the café made the trip “an activity.”

She would come specifically for coffee and shopping at Aritzia again, she said.

Local furniture store EQ3, a short walk away within CF Polo Park, opened last October with a Deer + Almond eatery inside.

It’s a good strategy, according to Arora.

“The idea is to keep the customer captive for as long as possible,” Arora said. “Literally, they’re not stepping into the mall.”

Leaving a store to grab a drink or treat opens shoppers to distractions elsewhere, he said. Adding a restaurant option can make a retailer a destination, he noted.

The idea isn’t new — bookstores like Indigo have offered hungry customers sustenance for years — but it’s possibly a good thing for clothing and shoe stores to latch onto, Arora said.

Aritzia has A-OK Cafés in Toronto, Calgary and New York City, among other places.

The new Winnipeg shop gave Hope Keller the feeling of being in New York.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The A-OK Café, which is attached to the retailer, offers coffees and pastries to shoppers.

It was the Grade 11’s first time in Aritzia — she saw it on TikTok.

“I was like, ‘You know what, let’s check it out,’” she said. “Honestly, I didn’t even know what Aritzia was.”

She was hooked.

“I’m probably going to spend way too much money here,” she said, eyeing some tops.

“We’re thrilled with the new expanded Aritzia and the addition of the Aritzia A-OK Café, the only one in Winnipeg,” Peter Havens, the mall’s general manager. wrote in a statement.

Aritzia is branded as “everyday luxury” and has more than 100 boutiques in North America. It carries exclusive brands including Wilfred, Tna, Babaton and Sunday Best.

gabrielle.piche@winnipegfreepress.com

Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché
Reporter

Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.

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