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Hunter's new store takes Scotland to Toronto

British heritage brand Hunter opened its third global standalone store this week in Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre. The brand’s creative director, Alasdhair Willis, talks Drapers through the immersive Scottish outdoors shopping experience.

Following openings on London’s Regent Street in November 2014 and in Tokyo’s Ginza in May 2015, British heritage brand Hunter has chosen Toronto as the home of its third store and first foray into own stores in North America.

The 2,800 sq ft space is part of the Yorkdale Shopping Centre, the mall with the highest sales per sq ft in the whole of Canada. The shop is on the ground floor of the centre’s extension, which opened in 2016.

Developed by Hunter’s in-house retail design team, the space has a barn-like architecture. The centre of the store features a trompe l’oeil “opening” to the great Scottish outdoors via digital screens, which will change in line with the seasons and weather in the brand’s native Lowlands.

This immersive experience is complemented by unique Hunter elements, such as its famous green wellington boot rubber used across the cash desk, and displays that highlight the brand’s history, heritage and craftsmanship.

Q&A: Hunter creative director Alasdhair Willis

Alasdhaircrop

Alasdhaircrop

Why Toronto for your first North American store?

As a market, the consumer profile mirrors the Hunter proposition very well and, as a result, Toronto was always going to be one of the first flagships. Opening standalone Hunter stores in key cities allows us to welcome the global consumer into the Hunter world. The success of our flagship stores on London’s Regent Street and Tokyo Ginza, which showcase the full range of products, is testament to the evolution of the brand.

More specifically: why the Yorkdale Shopping Centre?

Yorkdale Shopping Centre has the highest sales per sq ft of any mall in Canada, but it has also recently opened its new extension that has been strategically expanded to meet shoppers’ demands.

Tell me about the store.

The shop front is reminiscent of a greenhouse and, as soon as our customers enter the space, they are immersed into the birthplace of Hunter: the Scottish Lowlands. The overall space is very light and open, giving customers the impression of being outside in Scotland, celebrating what we are known for and do best: the outdoors and weather.

The focal point of the store lies in the centre through a contemporary barn architecture, from which visitors can “look out” on to the Scottish outdoors.

There is also a dedicated space for Hunter Field – our technical collection engineered to protect both in rural and urban environments. Showing, for example, a deconstructed Balmoral boot, engages shoppers by giving them a detailed insight into the craftsmanship involved in the production of each boot.

Why did you decide on these fixtures and fittings?

We want to celebrate our product and hero it by having simplicity in our architecture and fixturing. Qualities such as craftsmanship that are ingrained in our brand are present from the mid-floor fixture dovetail joints to the celebration of our original boot with our “28 parts” feature wall. Small subtle details are considered throughout – from using our own original boot green rubber in our cash desk and floor joints to umbrella handles in our kids’ department. Our approach has been to create furniture that expresses craftsmanship through sculpture and materiality, letting our customers meander their way through the space.

What about your changing rooms?

We don’t have changing rooms in this store. We want to be as open as possible.

How do you strive for an omnichannel experience?

It’s key for our brand to merge our online and retail business as much as possible – giving a seamless experience for our customer. This month we implement “Endless Aisles” in our Regent Street store, so if a customer is unable to purchase the product in store, they can place the order online in store. The programme is rolling out to all stores in 2018.

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