Smart Set stores set to vanish as part of Reitmans restructuring

Reitmans says it will close or rename all 107 Smart Set stores across Canada by the end of next year.

Chain was trying to reinvent itself in a tough retail market for women's clothing

Reitmans says it will close or rename all 107 Smart Set stores across Canada by the end of next year.

"Despite some improvements in the performance of the Smart Set banner, management has determined that its optimum strategy to improve its operating results is to refocus its sales and merchandising efforts by converting approximately 76 Smart Set stores to other Company banners and 31 store closures," the Montreal-based clothing chain said in a press release.

The chain had been trying to refocus its Smart Set banned to appeal to a more urban demographic of younger career women. But that turnaround came amid an intensification of competition in the space in Canada, which drove down prices.

Although there were signs of progress, Reitman pulled the plug on the chain on Tuesday.

"It's a very, very difficult market and I guess we never had the appropriate focus for that particular customer," president and CEO Jeremy Reitman told The Canadian Press.

Smart Set made up about 10 per cent of total sales across the Reitmans line of stores, which also includes Penningtons, Thyme, RW&Co. and Addition Elle. All in all, Reitmans stores sold $96 million in their last fiscal year which ended in February. The company has been around since 1926.

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Smart Set becomes just the latest woman-focused chain to fall on tough times of late. Another Montreal-based chain, Jacob, only recently abandoned restructuring efforts and is in the process of shuttering all of its 92 stores across Canada.

And Le Chateau is currently going through something similar.

"There's a lot of people in the space that have closed down or are closing down which led them to reduce prices dramatically and that put a pressure on our pricing structure," Reitman said. "It's a very, very busy space and we are not in a position of dominance and we didn't think we could grow to a position of dominance."

With files from The Canadian Press