One of Toronto’s major retail institutions is lifting the veil on its latest store, as it continues to expand across Canada.

Sporting Life’s new location in Richmond Hill, Ont. is now open for business.

Earlier this month, Sporting Life opened up its first store outside of Ontario in suburban Calgary. That location was announced prior to the oil price bust hemorrhaging Alberta’s economy.

“Calgarians were so happy that we were investing in Alberta,” David Russell, chief executive officer of Sporting Life, told BNN in an interview. 

Over the past two years, Sporting Life has embarked on an expansion targeting two new store openings each year.

Sporting Life has just secured space in the former Sears store at Yorkdale Mall, Canada’s highest-grossing mall per square foot. The retailer is also set to take over a portion of the former Target store in Calgary’s Market Mall in 2017.

Sporting Life believes the Canadian market can ultimately support 20 full-line Sporting Life stores.

“We would like to think we could open three stores in Vancouver, one in Edmonton, three additional stores in the Greater Toronto Area and three stores in Montreal,” adds Russell.


Over the years Sporting life has evolved into a lifestyle brand from its origins as a purveyor of sports equipment, by pushing into fashion-forward categories that pit it squarely against the likes of Nordstrom and Harry Rosen.

This expansion has been funded by a $270-million investment made by Prem Watsa’s Fairfax Financial in 2012.

Fairfax Financial has placed major faith in a resurgent and perhaps resilient Canadian consumer. The Toronto-based insurance and investment company holds 41 per cent of the voting shares in Cara Operations, 51 per cent of The Keg, 75 per cent in Sporting Life and also recently scooped up Golf Town.

“Fairfax is flexing financial muscle to revive two sports businesses that have been chronically cash starved and in sales decline, and going against the trend to serve millennials, by targeting boomer-centred luxury sports at Sporting Life and Golftown,” said Jim Danahy, chief executive officer of consulting company CustomerLab.

Fairfax has also hired two key executives from Canadian Tire’s FGL Sport division, FGL’s former Chief Operating Officer Chad McKinnon and FGL’s former senior vice-president of marketing Frederic Lecoq.

“They couldn't have found two more capable executives,” Danahy said.

And as investor appetite grows for consumer-facing IPOs, Russell has the blessing of Fairfax CEO Prem Watsa when and if the day to become publicly traded arrives for Sporting Life.

“There’s no master plan to take this public. It’s something that we do look at from time to time.”