Behind Every Store, There's a Story – Exclucity

Behind Every Store, There's a Story – Exclucity

The journey from reselling t-shirts out of the back of a car, to high-end sneaker and streetwear retail at three major locations.

There are 3 Exclucity stores in Montreal, each with a distinctly urban yet streamlined and sophisticated atmosphere. They’re a haven for limited edition Nike sneakers, and the newest, coolest styles in streetwear. The Exclucity brand is known all over the city and surrounding areas for being a sneaker destination, but being a footwear hotspot wasn’t the original goal. In fact, the owners weren’t even sure that opening a retail store would work.

Exclucity’s story starts with an entrepreneur’s investment of $1,000 in simple idea: sell streetwear clothes to high school kids. The entrepreneur had met a teen at a YMCA who convinced him of the high demand for t-shirts and various brands from the US that weren’t easily available in Montreal. With the borrowed cash, the teen bought merchandise in NYC and sold it all in an extremely short period of time – paying back the loan and inspiring his investor to explore this insatiable demand. With a partner, they began selling various streetwear brands from the back of a car. They drove from high school to high school and colleges in the area, constantly getting feedback. The kids wanted more. Driving around was becoming a logistical issue, so they decided to open a store sharing space with a small tattoo parlor, wondering if people would make the trip to see them instead of the other way around. They came in droves, and that’s when they knew they needed to expand.

The first location in Montreal’s west island was an instant success, and people kept asking when they would sell shoes. They were hesitant; shoes are a lot more expensive than apparel, and they had no previous experience selling footwear. After a deluge of requests, they took the plunge and bought one style – a Rocawear boat shoe. In a matter of days it sold out, and yet again they knew there was potential to grow bigger.

Proving to Nike that they had the potential to sell through a wide selection of sneakers was no easy task. Without much brand recognition, Nike was reluctant to have their products in an unknown store without a strong history of sales in footwear. After many negotiations, they realized that Exclucity had their ear to the ground when it came to local demand, and without any direct competition in the area, they finally gave them the chance to sell the coveted sneakers. At this point, sales really took off and the store even started to see overnight lineups after announcing the arrival of new, limited edition styles. They’ve since opened two more locations, and attribute the expansion to constantly listening to what their customers want.

The owners will tell you that Exclucity is primarily known for urban style, but their product mix and strategy is constantly evolving. “We don’t want to do the same business as we were two years ago. People’s tastes and demands are always changing, and we evolve alongside that.” They also explain how important it is to have cutting-edge technology in the store, because it tells the customer they are serious about providing superior service. “Customers know we are serious about our store when they see the iPads and when they get really good service. They want to know that we care as much about sneakers as much as they do, and that’s why having a good looking store with the best technology is so important.”

It’s hard to believe that Exclucity’s modern, design-forward stores started as a t-shirt business out of a car trunk just a few years ago. Supply and demand might be the main factor behind this brick-and-mortar success, but learning what the demand is and culling the right supply is at the center of retail magic, and a leap of faith can go a long way.