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Aritzia Eyes U.S. and E-commerce Growth, Names CMO

Digital guru Oliver Walsh is looking to raise the Canadian chain’s profile.

Digital guru Oliver Walsh is looking to raise Aritzia’s profile as the Canadian chain’s first chief marketing officer.

This story first appeared in the September 30, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Walsh, who founded a digital agency called Wednesday, spent the past four years working with brands such as J. Crew, Tory Burch, H&M, Balenciaga, Proenza Schouler, Alexander McQueen and Giorgio Armani to develop mobile apps, digital marketing campaigns, new brand creations, e-commerce sites and in-store tech solutions.

“It was my job to know more about the intersection of retail meets digital than anyone else,” Walsh said. “But being an agency, you only get so deep — and you’re never going to be as close to the actual product, [or] as capable to make really significant business changes.”

Now Walsh has a chance to take a more hands-on approach at Aritzia. The 29-year-old retailer, founded by Brian Hall, carries a combination of in-house lines and brands such as Rag & Bone and J Brand, with price points ranging from $50 to $300.

Walsh worked to launch Aritzia’s digital flagship last year, while still at Wednesday. The site at aritzia.com is able to respond and adapt to any device, eliminating the need for multiple sites.

E-commerce, marketing, creative services, editorial and corporate communications teams will report directly to Walsh — who is intent on doubling the retailer’s e-commerce sales from 5 percent of total revenues to 10 percent in two years. The company, which will have 61 doors by yearend, is expected to log retail sales of nearly $500 million this year, according to sources.

“There are huge disparities between [Aritzia’s] brand awareness in Canada and the U.S. In Canada, it’s letting people know the clarity of what’s been going on and what’s been evolving, but in the U.S., it’s more [about acquiring] new customers and awareness,” Walsh said. “In eight years, J. Crew went from a direct mail catalogue to becoming one of the most relevant fashion brands in the U.S. They didn’t do it overnight, and that is going to be my approach. It’s about doing it right.”

In the next 18 months, he hopes the brand is recognized as one of the top 20 leaders in terms of digital innovation in the fashion sector.