Steeped in Success

Shane Morrison on expanding Canadian retailer DAVIDsTEA south of the border

Most DAVIDsTEA locations are found in shopping malls, and all feature a tea wall, merchandise wall, and beverage station to attract customers. Photo: Steph Polic

Shane Morrison’s passion for architecture and construction goes back as far as he can remember. His grandfather and father were builders, and his uncle owns an architectural firm. He put himself through college while working for the family business and graduated from Boston’s Wentworth Institute of Technology with a degree in construction management.

After stints with different construction companies, including Hoyts Cinemas and Sonesta Hotels, Morrison opened his own construction consulting firm in 2006. In 2012, he joined Canadian retailer DAVIDsTEA as the company’s senior construction manager.

“I was finishing a contract consulting with another Canadian retailer that was expanding into the US when a colleague heard that DAVIDsTEA was looking for a construction manager and recommended that I contact them,” Morrison says. “There was just something about DAVIDsTEA that intrigued me. It was a young company with tremendous growth potential. I was impressed with the brand and the company’s passion for tea.”

DAVIDsTEA sells teas from around the world in addition to its tea-making products, tea accessories, and fresh cups of hot or iced tea to go.

“It was my interview with cofounder David Segal that really made me want this job,” Morrison says. “He has endless energy, high expectations for his company and the people that work for it—and he supported both in a manner that did not allow you to do anything but succeed.”

Today, Morrison is the company’s director of construction and maintenance. He is responsible for the planning and construction of all new stores as well as renovations and maintenance of more than 200 existing stores. He supervises the design, construction, and maintenance staff; develops and manages the annual capital, repair, and maintenance budgets; negotiates contracts; and manages the company’s national purchasing programs. He also works in conjunction with the company’s real estate team to support the review and approval of new sites.

Shane Morrison, Director, Construction & Maintenance. Photo: Steph Polic

“The real estate team chooses sites based on traditional factors such as demographics, traffic count, and cotenancy—they also spend a lot of time visiting sites to make sure locations have the right feel for DAVIDsTEA,” Morrison explains.

Once sites are approved, Morrison’s team takes over and manages projects through completion. Morrison oversees a staff of seven that consists of a store designer, project manager, four maintenance managers, and a department coordinator. “We are all driven, hardworking, and proud to be part of this team,” he says.

DAVIDsTEA stores all have a similar look and feel, but each is unique in terms of shape and size. Though the stores run from 500 to 1,400 square feet, most are in the 1,000-square-foot range. About 80 percent of store locations are in malls, with the rest in street-front locations or lifestyle centers.

“Each store has three unique focal points—our iconic tea wall (where our tea tins are displayed), our merchandise wall, and our beverage station,” Morrison says. “The design is clean, bright, and inviting. Our marketing/merchandising team seasonally launches whimsical new patterns for our packaging and hard goods. The stores are designed in a way that allows our merchandise to be the shining star.”

The first DAVIDsTEA store opened on Queen Street in Toronto in 2008. Morrison’s team is on pace to add about 40 new stores in 2016, and recently started renovating the organization’s first stores by cleaning, painting, doing repairs, and updating the aesthetics.

“We take pride in the way we maintain our stores,” he says. “We want them to always be customer-ready.”

Morrison recently faced an interesting challenge at the company’s Mall of America location.

Shane Morrison says his favorite DAVIDsTEA beverages include Nepal Black, Matcha, Cinnamon Rooibos Chai, and Strawberry Rhubarb Parfait iced tea. “We make it fun and have something for everyone,” he says.
Shane Morrison says his favorite DAVIDsTEA beverages include Nepal Black, Matcha, Cinnamon Rooibos Chai, and Strawberry Rhubarb Parfait iced tea. “We make it fun and have something for everyone,” he says.

“Our store is on the main floor above [an] aquatic life tank,” he says. “We have a considerable amount of below-slab plumbing in our stores, and access to install our waste piping was nerve-racking to say the least. Imagine being a plumber on a scaffold connecting pipes to the slab above you while a 12-foot shark swims a few feet below you. Our design team and GC worked closely with mall management to develop a layout and plan that minimized the amount of piping installed over the tank and helped design access and protection measures that eliminated risk to the sea life below while keeping workers safe on the scaffolding above.”

The company also has its sights set on energy efficiency. Morrison says he’s particularly proud of the LED retrofit program that’s been put into place. In addition to having all new stores since 2014 be designed and constructed using only LED light fixtures, the program in 2015 turned its attention to converting the lighting in all existing stores built before 2014 to LED.

“We’ve reduced our operating costs, our maintenance costs, and our carbon footprint,” he says. “We rarely—if ever—have light bulbs out.”

Morrison says the most rewarding part of his job is watching the company grow and succeed.

“We truly are a family with a common goal of bringing joy to our customers’ lives, one cup of tea at a time,” he says.