Parks Canada Unveils Own Clothing Collection
Visitors to Canada's national parks will soon be able to take a beaver home with them — as long as it’s one that adorns Parks Canada’s new official clothing and merchandise line.
For the first time, the government agency is selling its own collection of T-shirts, hoodies, ball caps, water bottles and tuques both online and, beginning later this month, at many national parks and heritage sites, The Edmonton Journal reported.
Souvenirs sold on-site will be customized with the name of the park or heritage site, while merchandise available online at parkscanadashop.ca appears more generic.
Parks Canada hopes greater visibility of its flagging brand helps stanch declining attendance, especially among big-city residents and new Canadians.
The collection, called Memories by Parks Canada, will feature the agency’s iconic beaver-on-a log logo and a nature-inspired color palette.
Greg Danchuk, Parks Canada’s brand manager, hopes the array will remind visitors of their experiences and catch the eye of people who don’t visit the parks.
“We want to raise awareness of Parks Canada and the places that we’re responsible for,” said Danchuk. “For those who might not visit, they see this stuff and they might get past the point of dreaming about those places.”
While tourist shops and “friends of parks” associations have long sold parks mementoes from tacky to classic, this is the agency’s own merchandise line, sold directly from visitor centers or other on-site facilities. Selling its own gear helps ensure quality, durability and that most of it is made in Canada where possible, Danchuk said.
The federal government began seeking companies to design merchandise in 2011 and selected Canadian promotional marketing firm Cotton Candy Inc. The company wholesales the merchandise to Parks Canada, which then retails it, with proceeds going toward the parks.
“If it’s sold at Jasper National Park, for instance, Jasper National Park would retain that revenue and put it right back into their own operation, programs and services,” Danchuk said.
One stipulation for designers was that the beaver figure prominently.
“It has a fairly good recognition factor. That beaver logo is Parks Canada,” Danchuk said.
He downplayed any concerns about confusion between clothing brand Roots, which also features the toothy rodent as a logo.
“We really think Parks Canada stands on its own.”
Parks Canada has been criticized for Disneyfication of its parks, following moves to privatize hot springs in Jasper, Banff and Radium and approving a glass-floored observation deck in Jasper. But Danchuk said the merchandise line is not about commercialization.
“We’re there to both protect and present those areas and this is one way of making more Canadians more aware of the opportunities available to them in their national parks and historic sites and national marine conservation areas,” he said.
One clothing expert said the Parks Canada merchandise line does not break any fashion ground or push any boundaries, but suits its purpose.
“They’re doing it in a very low-key way, which probably appeals to a broad audience,” said Anne Bissonnette, assistant professor of material culture and curator of the University of Alberta Clothing and Textiles Collection.
“Is this breathtaking and original? No, but I think it will sell.”