A blog series on Shopper Marketing.

By Cyndi Pyburn

Is it just me?  I am frankly tired of hearing about the American take-over of retail in Canada.  Yes, America has some great brands and stores.  Their customer experience is known to be better than ours (although I could debate that point with less than ideal service recently received south of the border).   However, Canada has some exemplary retail talent that often goes unnoticed amongst us Canadians.  Moreover, many Canadian retailers are highly philanthropic and support communities across our country. This is something to celebrate.  So who are these notable retailers?   Let’s focus on two.

Canadian Tire has been in business for 90 years (that says a lot) and is an iconic symbol in communities across the country.

Focusing on its core business of auto, Canadian Tire is also the go-to store for living, playing, fixing and all things seasonal .  Canadian Tire, like a grocery store, is on our weekly list of must-have items be it for the kid’s sports or the house or car repair.  I think many of us remember going to Canadian Tire as a kid with our Dad on a Saturday morning to pick something up.  I know I do.   In addition to this ritual, the company has a heritage of supporting families across every community in Canada.  For example, Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart is dedicated to removing barriers so children can participate in organized sport and recreation as one in three Canadian families cannot afford to.  According to the company’s website, “We see it as equipping kids for life, because participation in organized sport and recreation increases a child’s chance for success in life. They discover and participate. They gain self-confidence. They develop self-esteem. They learn leadership skills. Their lives become richer”.   Most recently, the Canadian Tire Corporation has committed significant funding to The Canadian Olympic Corporation and our athletes, as well as other key sport organizations.  Their focus is to take athletes from the playground to the podium.

Roots is celebrating 40 years of success in this country.    Starting with the negative heel shoe, the Sport Root, this company has remained relevant with a strong shoe offering.  The Tuff workboot for men and women hit stores in 1992.  While shoes and leather are still at the heart of this brand, so are ‘sweats’ branded with the familiar Beaver Canoe logo.  Generations of kids have worn Roots gear to camp.  In fact, founders, Michael Budman and Don Green (okay American transplants) fell in love with the Canadian north at Algonquin summer camp which became their inspiration for the store. I still have my navy roots sweatshirt which is now a fixture at our cottage – always there for the odd cool summer night walk on the beach.

Roots went on to other successes with Olympic gear  such as the 2002 Salt Lake City games with the beret and the 2004 Athens games with the poor boy caps.   Roots remains relevant by celebrating their heritage (go to the Bloor Street flagship store where 40 years of fashion history is on display) and staying ahead of the curve on trends while staying true to who they  are.  Roots has an extensive community support program that provides assistance to numerous charitable organizations. Some of the organizations sponsored by Roots include: Rethink Breast Cancer, Canadian Blood Services, AIDS Conference, Right to Play, Free the Children, War Child Canada, World Vision, ThinkFirst Canada, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada.  Over the years, Roots has supported many Canadians athletes, in particular skating and speed skating.

There are many more Canadian retailers to celebrate — large and small,   national chain and independent.   Perhaps it is the upcoming Olympics that has awakened the patriotic side of me, but Canadian retailers should be celebrated – in our media and with our pocketbooks.  They are part of the fabric of our nation and do great things for our communities.