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Chinese retail giant opens Halifax store

Early morning outside the latest MINISO location at Spring Garden Place in Halifax. BRENDAN AHEARN
Early morning outside the latest MINISO location at Spring Garden Place in Halifax. BRENDAN AHEARN - The Chronicle Herald

A new shop at the Spring Garden Place mall in Halifax is the first of its kind in Atlantic Canada, and just one step in a retail giant’s wider designs for Canadian expansion.

MINISO is a Chinese variety retailer and lifestyle brand. It was co-founded in 2013 by Japanese designer Miake Junya and Chinese entrepreneur Ye Guofu. Since 2013 the company has grown from a single location in Tokyo to more than 2,500 locations in 40 countries.

MINISO is hoping to reach 6,000 stores by 2020. Of that number, 500 are hoped to be Canadian locations, including 20 in the Atlantic provinces.

The first of those 20 Atlantic stores opened last weekend, and nearly 300 people were lined up to be the first ones inside.

“Saturday was crazy,” says the store’s manager Lucy He. “Our lineup went all the way from here to the street.”

Two days later, Lucy and three other employees arrived early to prepare for another busy day.

“In the morning we do restocking and housekeeping to make sure that every price-tag is attached to the correct spots,” she said.

Lucy, who is also a registered nurse, pointed to a price tag that had fallen off the edge of a shelf. “There’s a lot of floor checks. People play around with the stuff a lot and we are constantly making sure the product is organized and that it looks nice.”

When MINISO announced their national expansion plans back in 2017, Canadian bricks-and-mortar retailers were being effectively routed from the landscape by online retail giants like Amazon.

Despite this, MINISO has been opening between 80 and 100 new stores per month, and last weekend’s enthusiastic public response is not out of the ordinary.

“There is no secret for the retail market,” said the MINISO developer of Atlantic Canada Neil Li. “There are three things, price, quality and design. That’s the three things we focus on.”

For Li, MINISO also offers an opportunity to expand the range of business and job opportunities for Chinese expats in the Maritimes.

“There are lots of Asian people here and the business they do is usually restaurants,” said Li who came to Halifax 12 years ago to study economics at Dalhousie. “I wanted to do a bit of a change.”

According to Li, the Halifax store currently employs between 20 and 25 people and they are still hiring to bring that number up to 30.

Li is expecting to have another location opened in either the Halifax Shopping Centre or the Mic Mac Mall in Dartmouth by the end of the year, and in a press release MINISO head office projected global sales to reach $19 billion.

“This is the power of immigrant entrepreneurship,” said Halifax MP Andy Filmore who attended the store’s opening on Saturday. “People from away, becoming new Canadians and bringing new ideas with them to build our economy and community.”

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