You have operated your own wholesale agency and accessories brand for several years now. Why did you decide to add a retail store to the WANT “empire”? And why now?
We have been working with all the brands presented in the shop for many years now and felt there was a lack of great stores that were not only high on design and concept, but as importantly, also dedicated to offering high quality service which would showcase these brands in a fitting environment. Over the past few years we have spent a lot of time in Japan and have always been extremely impressed with their attention to detail when it comes to service and presentation. With our partner Mark Wiltzer, we created the concept of the "Apothecary" to offer a retail experience of that kind in Montreal.
How does retailing differ from the other arms of your business? What have you learned about retailing since the store opened?
Retailing is very different to distribution and product design. It offers a unique opportunity to interact with your customers in a direct and daily way.
What are your bestselling brands and items at the store at the moment and what do you think accounts for their popularity?
Each brand has its own signature strengths that we admire and love to highlight within the shop. For example we love Acne for its creativity, leadership and ironic expression, Kitsuné for the luxurious fabrics and workmanship, Nudie for its authenticity and social responsibility, Arc'teryx Veilance for the fit and technical engineering, Filippa K for its ease and wearability and Swims for its color and playfulness. Our customers tend to shop all the brands collectively. However, our WANT Les Essentiels de la Vie O'hare tote bag is definitely the bestseller in the store.
Who is your “typical” customer?
We don't really have a "typical" customer and work to be as accessible as possible. However, our customers do tend to embody (or aspire to) the qualities of the practiced traveler looking for simple, refined accessories that support their style as well as their lifestyle choice.
What is the independent retail/fashion scene like in Montreal at the moment? And how would you describe the state of independent retail overall?
Montreal's independent retail/fashion scene has been strong for a while now. Montreal is a very idiosyncratic market with a confident and individualistic approach, meaning independent retailers will normally always have some kind of market. After a period of uncertainty in the independent retail market overall, there seems to be a return of hope and a buoyancy, especially for smaller independents.
How do you attract and keep customers? Do you feature sales or other special events?
Our whole ethos at WANT Apothecary is keeping our clients happy and servicing them to a very high standard. We host biannual private sale events which are fun evenings where we get to meet our clients which is important for us and a wonderful opportunity to hear valued feedback. Our clients are able to make appointments to view new collections or to shop for a particular event or gift and our staff always contact clients to advise them of new arrivals in the shop.
Your website says you hope to capture the “intimate, trusted and neighborly retail experience of a bygone era” at the store. How do you specifically do that?
We created the concept of an "Apothecary" to revive the essence of an intimate and neighborly retail experience where our clients feel comfortable and valued. Our WANT Apothecary "Specialists" are extensively trained and are able to offer a bespoke shopping experience to every customer, remembering them by name and remembering their preferences and taste.
The store also carries beauty products and candles. How do these complement the fashion assortment?
The WANT Apothecary is more than just a fashion concept store. We are also equally focused on collaborating with the finest beauty brands in the world. As the exclusive stockists for Aesop, Astier de Villatte and Ursa Major's all-natural Stellar Shave Cream in Canada, the store offers a complete and exclusive lifestyle experience and both fashion and beauty solutions.
How did you recruit and find qualified staff for the store?
Our WANT Apothecary "Specialists" were chosen for their attention to detail, charm and expertise in both fashion and beauty. Each "Specialist" was then given further training to ensure a unique, bespoke service would be offered to all our customers.
Do you have any plans for expansion? Might WANT Apothecaries be appearing in other locations in the coming months or years?
In the next three to five years, we plan on opening up more WANT Apothecary shops in dynamic neighborhoods that also reflect the same friendly “neighborly” feel we get here in Montreal. We hope to expand to areas such as Toronto and Vancouver, and eventually into the United States.
You currently do not have an online shop. Are there plans to add one? Why or why not?
It is important to us that we are able to offer the same level of service online as you would receive in-store. Our online presence will be both accessible and exclusive and offer an interactive and bespoke service to all our customers. We are taking our time to make sure we get it right.
What is the most expensive item in the store? And the least expensive?
It is fundamental to us that WANT Apothecary is an accessible neighborhood shop and our products and prices reflect that with the most expensive item in the store the WANT Les Essentiels de la Vie Deurne travel bag at CAN$1,695 and the least expensive item the Ursa Major travel size Stellar Shave Cream at CAN$5.50.
How frequently do you add new products?
It is important to us that the WANT Apothecary is an intriguing and interesting place where clients can come frequently to browse new products. To this end, we ensure that new products are added every one to two weeks.