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Six new Okaïdi stores in Canada in six weeks!

Local staff meet the challenge with flying colours. How? By embracing versatility! Country manager Timothée tells us more.

What triggered this project?

Like everywhere else in the world, the North American market is undergoing a complex period of change. When it was announced that a local children’s fashion brand was closing 400 retail outlets, we reacted immediately. We met with the lessor, Cadillac Fairview, and soon reached a win-win deal: if we agreed to quickly reopen six retail outlets located in shopping centres, we would be given one year to test customer appetite for Okaïdi locally under very favourable rent conditions. We swung into action. The Expansion Committee approved the project in mid-April and on 1 June we opened our first store in Ottawa, Canada’s administrative capital.

What difficulties did you have to overcome? 

We had to create an Okaïdi environment in a store structure that wasn’t our own. On the plus side, the stores’ average surface area was in line with our concept, i.e. between 120 and 180 square metres. And the furniture and windows, which we also retained, were neutral enough for us to stamp our image on them.

How did you manage to open six stores in six weeks?

The two key ingredients were forward planning and role distribution. We worked hard to plan the ordering of stock, supplies, and so on in advance using a reverse planning model.

And we distributed roles appropriately:

  • Céline, our local marketing manager, was responsible for adapting all our existing marketing material for the new retail outlets.
  • Elodie took care of managing the existing network.
  • We got the “old” staff involved in setting up the stores.
  • This allowed us to work with our HR partner Elizabeth to focus on recruiting new staff, the biggest challenge.

In terms of HR, how were you able to create six new teams in so little time?

Six weeks before opening we recruited our six store managers after a telephone preselection and interview.

Then we launched a “job dating” exercise with each store manager in each outlet by advertising in the windows. This resulted in 80 to 150 applications.

To make the final selection, our process was twofold:

  • Candidates first had a quick 5-minute interview with Elizabeth, Elodie and/or me, so we could initially gauge their fit with Okaïdi’s core values and check that their interpersonal skills were up to scratch;
  • This was followed by a 20-minute interview with the store manager to confirm their level of expertise.

At the end of the “job dating” process, we had hired six teams of ten to twelve people – a few more than we needed. As they worked to set up the stores, we were able to fine-tune the make-up of the teams. Only the most versatile team members stayed. This is an important quality for Okaïdi, even though the job of sales assistant in Canada tends to be more single task focused.

What was the impact of this project on existing staff?

It allowed us to test their robustness. By offering six “old” staff members the opportunity to manage the new store set-ups, we were able to use a real-life test to see who was most comfortable with this type of responsibility. They also had to train the newcomers, which freed up Elodie to ensure the smooth running of the existing network and manage the six store openings. Everyone learned something new!

What’s next?

Staff will continue to hone their skills in the coming months as they familiarize themselves with the brand and our requirements. And we will meet with the lessor again in a year to discuss the results. The stores that have proven themselves will be fully transformed in line with our concept.

The six new Okaïdi Canada stores are in Ottawa, Toronto North York, Markham, Kitchener, Hamilton and London.

For more details visit https://fr.okaidi.ca/

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