In less than two years, Kit and Ace has successfully opened 60 locations worldwide and plans to roll out more locations in coming years. How the high-end comfort clothing fashion line has broken ground so quickly and effectively is no surprise; however, their business plan is slightly different than most retailers. The high-end retailer centered their business plan on localization. They are in an aggressive building campaign as a way to build awareness from the ground up – no pun intended. Kit and Ace uses local designers to make their stores into community-centric destinations. Part store and part community space, Kit and Ace’s hyper-local stores are legitimately cool. So cool that Kit and Ace captured an audience that will gladly purchase a basic tee that has an $88 price tag.
Kit and Ace is a Canadian brand founded by Lululemon’s former lead designer, Shannon Wilson, and her stepson JJ Wilson. Founder of Lululemon, Chip Wilson, could have been the inspiration to the new luxury apparel brand. After spending some time working with stretchy performance wear that is Lululemon, JJ and Shannon Wilson found a gaping void in the luxury apparel industry. That void voiced a need for clothing that Lululemon offers in terms of providing the same functionally but also incorporating sophistication, style, and luxury.
So Shannon and JJ went on to create a build a brand that made sure “every store had the same elements unique to that market, and to avoid having every shop look the same,” as JJ stated. “The best way to do that is to partner with local creative people.” And that’s what they did.
Kit and Ace stores give at least a 30% commission to local artists that complete the interior finishing at all stores. “Having a space where people can come and interact is really important,” Shannon says of their stores. “They get a sense of who we are, and we can connect with the community.”
Kit and Ace’s hyper-local stores are an interesting concept as the majority of retailers are taking a different approach to their businesses. Instead of focusing on the atmosphere of their stores, they are working to better their ecommerce websites. Especially since foot traffic statistics for America’s annual Black Friday sales is down for the second year. “Even with the onset of e-commerce, the social element of going shopping and having an interaction with the brand is such a critical thing,” JJ says. The Wilsons are undeterred by growing e-commerce focused retailers.
There is one uniform aspect to every store, minus the clothing of course. “We have a big 8-by-8 table where we hold supper clubs,” Shannon confirms. “We invite people from the community who don’t know each other, have them in for supper made by a local caterer, and everyone participates in a question game, so things go deeper than typical dinner chit chat.”
Here are a few Kit and Ace store designs to give you major interior design envy:
Newbury St, Boston, Massachusetts | Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge
N Washington Ave, Minneapolis, Minnesota | Prairie Woodworkers
Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, California | Geometric Art
Fillmore St, San Francisco, California | Independent Boutique
Norlita, New York City, New York | Community Space