Darcy Weiss knows what it’s like to work in Alberta. It’s a province with a big heart and soul, but also a province with four very distinct seasons. From bone chilling winters to rainy springs, searing hot summers to windy autumns, the hearty people of Alberta know what it’s like to experience a 20 degree swing in only a matter of days.
Alberta is also a hardworking province. According to the Alberta Government’s Alberta Labour Market Highlights 2017, the participation rate in the labour force is the highest among all of the Canadian provinces and has remained above 70 per cent since 1980. Where is the majority of the labour force employed? The servicing-producing sector (construction, mining, oil and gas, agriculture, utilities, etc.), which employs nearly three fourths of Albertans.
Edmonton born and raised, Weiss knows that Alberta’s hardworking men and women need work wear that performs as hard as they do on the job. In 2004, he opened JobSite Workwear’s first location. Now, 15 years later, the chain consists of six stores and is proud to have outfitted thousands of workers in tough gear for tough jobs. With an inventory of over 30,000 products and the ability to source specialty work gear, JobSite Workwear is the only contact you need to find the most advanced, comfortable clothing that keeps you safe and visible on site.
Today, Weiss and his operations manager, Marc Poirier, are reflecting on the journey.
“Tenacity, hard work, great staff,” says Weiss of what has made the brand successful and how they stand out from the competition. “The foundation of our success comes from that perspective.”
“We are always trying to understand what our customers need,” Poirier adds. “We strive to stay ahead of the changing industry needs and show our customers new products that will make their time on the job even better.”
Despite a massive inventory and constant foot traffic, JobSite Workwear proved its efficiency with a recent move when they relocated Edmonton’s south end store, basically, overnight.
“We sold our last product at 2 p.m. in the old location, moved, and opened at 9 a.m. the next day in our new space” Poirier says. “We weren’t completely set up or fully merchandised, but we did it!”
“You have to do what you have to do,” Weiss shrugs. “It was November. It was cold.” JobSite had no intention of letting down the customers that needed work wear to go earn their living the next day.
The move is indicative of the tenacity and commitment to its customers that JobSite has shown over the years.
“Since we are a small business, our greatest challenge is that we have to do it all,” says Poirier, noting that just 30 staff run the stores and the administration. “There isn’t one marketing person or one HR person. There isn’t one expert in the store. You must be good at everything. You have to be willing to do everything. Every team member needs to pull together, whether they are in management or on the sales floor. Everyone needs to know about socks, work boots, hi-vis gear and coveralls. I need to know about leases, human resources, signage, social media, business licenses, toilets, websites, and SEO.” He smiles, “It’s a challenge.”
It’s a challenge and test the entire team has embraced, and their willingness to do so has seen JobSite Workwear through some difficult times.
“If you look at the last decade and all the trials and tribulations from the last 10 years due to adverse economic conditions, we are still here. We are still open with all six of our locations,” says Weiss.
In addition to the men and women in the stores and in the head office, the massive selection of inventory is a major part of the brand’s success. Weiss and Poirier devote a great deal of time finding, sourcing, testing, and promoting the gear that Albertans need on the job.
“Our suppliers are more focused than ever on comfort and making clothing safer without sacrificing quality,” Poirier says. “For example, Timberland Pro® is coming out with new internal met guard boots. They feel like a normal boot but offer more protection over your forefoot. You get something you didn’t know you needed until you drop something on your foot and are still able to go to work the next day!”
He continues, “Timberland Pro, Carhartt and Helly Hansen® are just some of the suppliers modernizing their lines by looking at what people are wearing outside of work and combining fabrics for functionality, no longer focusing only on durability. Timberland Pro makes wearing boots easier by giving you options on how to pull the boot on or off and options for how to lace it. They have built in anti-fatigue technology (A.F.T.), so you’re actually standing on an anti-fatigue mat all day. It’s integrated into your boot. Even though you may have to climb or do strenuous work, the A.F.T. is with you all day making it easier to work in [your boots] without sacrificing durability. Timberland Pro is putting this level of detail into a full line of head-to-toe products now.”
Poirier goes on to explain that the top brands are taking inspiration from the action sports industry (like mountain climbing and snowboarding) to see how clothing works and is integrating four-way stretch, gussets, panels, and better articulation into their work wear. “The principal factor is that we are always striving to provide our customers with the best options available, whether that is protection, innovation, design, function, or reliability.”
“What we’d like our clients to understand,” he continues, “is the thought process of how we choose the products for our stores. We only carry items that we would be comfortable putting our own families in. This is vital for safety because you think an accident will never happen to you – but accidents do happen, and if you knew it was going to happen, you would absolutely hedge your bets with the safest and best gear. We carry that gear, and we educate people on how and why to maximize our products so they can make an informed decision on what’s best for them.”
Even though JobSite Workwear has been servicing Albertans for 15 years, many locals don’t realize that
this is a homegrown, Alberta-based business and that it is not owned or operated by a large corporation or a company from Eastern Canada or the States.
“We live here and work here,” Weiss confirms, which is part of the reason why he knows what Albertans need for tough gear on the job. He loves Alberta and has no plans to relocate.
Calgary and Edmonton are actually tight knit, close, supportive and understanding cities with exceptional resources. The business community offers encouragement and advice, and I appreciate what they can do for entrepreneurs. I’m grateful for the opportunity to run a business in Alberta , and thankful to be born and raised here because this province is full of wonderful hard working people.
Some of those great people include the men and women behind Firefighter Aid Ukraine, a non-profit organization that JobSite Workwear is proud to support.
Firefighter Aid Ukraine collects PPE, life rescue equipment, medical supplies, gear, and funds; and it transports these important resources to first responders in Ukraine who are desperately underserved and undersupplied.
“We collect warranty returns and safety products from venders and customers and get them into the hands of Firefighter Aid,” explains Weiss. “The organization then goes to the Ukraine on aid missions to train and facilitate getting these items to the first responders. One of the neatest things is the feedback. When you see the photos of the missions, it’s like Christmas day. The emotion on [the first responders’] faces when they open the containers, see all the gear, and get to use it and try it on – they are so appreciative for everything they receive. They send photos and thank you notes. It’s very rewarding to see how the donations are going to help keep them safer on the job.”
Weiss has been recognized as a business Leader and as an EY Entrepreneur of the Year®. “With 15 years in business, I’d like to acknowledge the staff, past and present,” he says. “Without great staff, the business is just an idea, not a working environment.”
What comes next is a move of the flagship store, but this change won’t be as arduous as the quick turnaround on Edmonton’s south end location. JobSite’s first store in west Edmonton is moving 125 feet to the left to relocate into a more efficient space. The near future also sees the first line of succession take place. Plans are underway for Liam, Weiss’ son, to take a larger role in the management operations and to work closely with Poirier as the transition unfolds.
“Brick and mortar retail is constantly evolving, and there are challenges every day, every week, and every month,” concludes Poirier. We just have too adapt to those challenges. I firmly believe there is still the space and a requirement for exceptional retailers. The people who are not surviving in retail are losing sight of what their customers need. We are always working to anticipate and find out what our customers need. We are going to continue to focus on understanding our business and on understanding our customers, so we are here for another 15 years, and beyond.”
Learn more about JobSite Workwear online at Jobsiteworkwear.ca, search JobSite Workwear on Facebook and Twitter, or connect via Instagram