Canada-based athleisure retailer Kit and Ace dipped its toes into the New Zealand market recently, opening a series of pop-ups followed by a store in Auckland’s Britomart, which closed at the start of this year. The brand has now abandoned its international strategy, however, announcing it will shutter stores outside Canada to focus on an ecommerce strategy instead.
Kit and Ace district director Anna Strand said in an email in January that Kit and Ace had decided to close its Britomart location. It had planned to remain there until March 2017, with six more stores around New Zealand to follow within the next three to five years.
Strand said in January that the closure was “not forever”.
“We've made strong local connections in New Zealand, and built out a great network – the brand is planning to be back in New Zealand in the future,” she said. “I know that the brand will be back (and remember we still have www.kitandace.com) but right now, it’s just not the right time for the business from a global perspective.”
The company has now announced that it will close all stores in the US, Australia and the UK as it shifts its focus to online sales and its nine Canadian outlets. The fate of Kit and Ace’s Japanese stores has not been mentioned in international media, but these also seem to have closed.
Kit and Ace was founded in 2014 by Lululemon’s former head of design Shannon Wilson and her stepson JJ Wilson, who are the wife and son of Lululemon founder Chip Wilson.
The company attempts to fill a gap in the athleisure market by providing functional and comfortable apparel made from its range of luxurious proprietary fibres. Machine-washable “technical cashmere” is its flagship product.
Kit and Ace has grown rapidly over the past three years, but also had a series of layoffs last year. At the beginning of 2016, it had 61 outlets and around 700 staff worldwide, but cut 10 percent of its head office start in February, then approximately 20 percent of the remaining 280 later in the year. The number of jobs affected by these recent closures was undisclosed by the privately-owned company.
Comments on social media imply the company may not have informed its staff before announcing the closures.