As I started to think about writing the first Blog for InStyle I knew I had to go with a bit of edge and controversy.  The American President has been making a lot of noise about NAFTA and changes he would like to see happen.  It got me thinking about my experience on the floor as a Design Consultant for InStyle and our new endeavor to offer Made In Canada Furniture.  Does “Made In Canada matter” to the Canadian retail customer?

As a retailer one theme rings true – we cannot possibly have everything, in every colour, and every size.  BUT with the onset of online retailers offering well “everything” and customers ordering in droves (regardless of the not always great product reviews) we knew we needed to find ways to compete for our customer’s dollars.  As you can see from our website we offer a range of items which are updated regularly with new pieces that catch our eye.  But customers still want to touch and feel furniture – what one person considers “comfortable” another may say is “too firm”.  When you buy online that opportunity to “feel” your potential purchase is totally out of your hands.  Retail floor space for a smaller retailer comes at a premium cost.  SO we need to be very careful to offer the best options at the brick and mortar retail level.  Our new store in Bloor West is a decent size but how do we give every customer the options that they will love?

This is a dilemma because interior design is such a personal matter – and everyone’s home is different.  Sure there are common themes – Grey IS the new neutral and people are definitely running toward glass and steel to create modern looks…but what people really want is choice.  Most people come into InStyle looking for a new sofa or sectional with optional hide a bed or convertible sofa bed.  We have a number of them on our floor and are constantly bringing in new offerings – but what if you want that unique or special colour?  Or perhaps you want something that is bigger or smaller than the norm?  Can that request be easily accommodated?  Up until recently the answer to that questions would have been “no” – BUT we are now offering Made in Canada Sofas and Sectionals that allow you to choose your style, fabric and colour – everything is done to your specifications and delivered to your home within 8 weeks (often as quickly as 6 weeks).  Our customers are thrilled with the plethora of options.   Priced extremely reasonably most of our Made in Canada options are competitive with our well known house brands. 

Let’s go back to the NAFTA discussion and why Canadians need to buy from Canadian based retailers and where possible Canadian based brands.  Canadian stats are not easily found so here is an American stat that should get your attention; more than three-quarters of the furniture sold in the United States now is made in China.  It would not be a far reach to assume the same stat rings true for Canada.

I come from the fashion industry where Made In Canada was only possible for the higher end brands.  Most of the time people want Made in Canada but when they find out the premium cost they go for the lower priced brand.   I am surprised that our new Made in Canada furniture option is priced very competitively.  

But is offering “Made in Canada” brand a valuable selling point for Canadian businesses? Melissa Aronczyk, associate professor at the school of communications and information at Rutgers University and author of Branding the Nation: The Global Business of National Identity, says that the world’s view of Canada is a positive one, and those feelings tend to stick. In many parts of the world Made in Canada is highly coveted. David Soberman, professor of marketing at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management says the “Made in Canada” label works particularly well for products where Canada’s image is intrinsically linked to them, like ice wine, maple syrup or winter apparel, but he points out that when it comes to manufacturing, Canada is actually most well-known for planes, trains and automobiles. This “dependable, reliable” reputation of Canada could give businesses an advantage on the world stage, says Dr. Soberman.

“It would be a secondary consideration so that when two products are perceived as being very similar, ‘Made in Canada’ can create an advantage,” he says. (1)

How about here in Canada though, when you are considering buying a sofa or sectional – if prices are similar – does Made in Canada create the differentiating reason to buy?  At InStyle we are definitely hoping our customers will support Canadian Made brands and brands from companies that are based in Canada.  We believe the financial health of our country and company depends on it.



It works for Canada Goose, but how far can ‘made in Canada’ go?


Special to The Globe and Mail

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