Loblaw Cos. said Wednesday it plans to open six clothing stores this year in Canada as it pushes its Joe Fresh Style brand into the mainstream.


Joe Fresh clothing, a brand that will get six new stand-alone stores next year, is modelled at a recent fashion show. ((Nathan Denette/Canadian Press))

The clothing chain, whose goods until recently were only offered in Loblaws stores across the country, will get four stand-alone stores in the spring and two more by the end of the year.

Five of the six stores are planned for the Greater Toronto Area, including one store at Maple Leaf Gardens in downtown Toronto. One store will also open in Alberta.

The expansion follows the launch of the first Joe Fresh store on Granville Street in Vancouver in October.

"We are excited to be able to reach many more of our loyal Joe Fresh customers in these great locations," said Joseph Mimran, the creator of the Joe Fresh brand.

Joe Fresh was launched in 2006 with a line of trendy but affordable clothing in Loblaw Cos. stores such as Loblaws, Real Canadian Superstore, Atlantic Superstore and Maxi & Cie in Quebec. But but the clothing chain soon saw a need for stand-alone stores, where Joe Fresh products could be featured  in a much bigger retail space.

Burdifile, the Toronto firm that designed the flagship Vancouver store, will also design the new stores.

The new stores come as retailers fight for market share in Canada, and foreign companies eye the country's growing retail sector and strong dollar.

Last week, U.S. retailer Target said it planned to buy the store leases of Canadian discount retail chain Zellers from the U.S. investor who owns the Hudson's Bay Co. assets for $1.8 billion.

Target will convert 100 to 150 of the Zellers locations to Target stores in 2013 and 2014 and possibly sell the rest of the network of store leases to other retailers.

Victoria's Secret and J Crew have also unveiled plans to move aggressively into Canada in the next few years.