From its prime location in the heart of the capital’s busiest mall, the newest tenant in the Rideau Centre is anxiously gearing up for the holiday stretch run.
But this particular occupant is not a trendy fashion retailer or a fancy restaurant.
It’s Trexity, an Ottawa-based startup that’s piloting an ambitious plan to bring last-mile delivery to a new frontier – shopping centres.
“It’s really cool,” Trexity co-founder and CEO Alok Ahuja said Thursday from the company’s new logistics hub in the “epicentre” of the mall, just down the corridor from blue-chip tenants Aritzia and Lululemon. “I still can’t believe it.”
Ahuja and his business partner Mathieu Bouchard, the firm’s co-founder and vice-president of engineering, have been at the Rideau Centre since Monday, scurrying to pick up packages from retailers that hail their service through the Trexity app as part of a new partnership with mall owner Cadillac Fairview.
Under the deal, all of the Rideau Centre’s nearly 180 tenants have access to Trexity’s platform, which provides same-day delivery to consumers via a network of freelance drivers.
Ahuja and Bouchard grab the cargo from merchants and shuttle it to drivers waiting in the mall’s loading dock. Ahuja, who figures they’ve processed close to 100 transactions in the first three and a half days, calls the alliance with Cadillac Fairview “a match made in heaven.”
Founded four years ago, Trexity has already made a name for itself in the crowded logistics space for its cutting-edge algorithms that quickly calculate the most efficient way to bundle orders and deliver packages.
The 22-person firm charges a flat rate that’s included in the purchase price of an item. Thousands of merchants in Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and Winnipeg – including well-known local retailers such as Bridgehead, Dominion City Brewing and La Bottega Nicastro – now use its platform.
But Ahuja says shopping centres remain virgin territory for services like Trexity.
While mall traffic across Canada has ticked up recently and some local properties, including the Rideau Centre, say sales are brisk this holiday season, Ahuja believes anything that can help merchants get goods into more customers’ hands is a welcome tool.
When he’s not shuttling items between stores and drivers this week, Trexity’s chief executive has been pounding the pavement to get the word out to merchants that they now have a delivery service at their fingertips.
“They’re like, ‘We’ve been waiting for you to get over here,’” he said with a laugh. “We want to do all of the heavy lifting this time of year for them, so they can just keep selling.”
The idea of marrying malls and last-mile delivery has been percolating in Ahuja’s mind for a couple of years. He says Trexity has turned down offers from other malls he didn’t feel were the right fit, adding that until recently “the timing wasn’t right” to make the move.
Then, a few weeks ago, fate intervened. During lunch with Ahuja, one of Trexity’s investors happened to mention he was working on a project with Cadillac Fairview, one of the largest shopping centre managers in Canada.
When Ahuja said he hoped to expand his service to mall merchants, the investor immediately emailed Rideau Centre manager Brian O’Hoski. Two days later, Trexity’s co-founder and O’Hoski met for coffee in the ByWard Market, where the seeds of a deal were quickly sown.
“After 10 minutes, Brian goes, ‘This makes total sense. How do we get this started?’” Ahuja said.
Barely a week after that meeting, Trexity’s founders were busy setting up their new satellite office in the mall.
“I take my hat off to Cadillac Fairview,” Ahuja said. “They’re like, ‘Listen. We understand that malls just aren’t what they used to be. The foot traffic coming in just isn’t as high as it once was, so what can we (do to) give more value to our tenants?’”
The deal gives Trexity exclusive rights to last-mile delivery services in Cadillac Fairview’s shopping centres across Canada, and the Ottawa firm has agreed not to use its platform in any other malls.
For now, Trexity is focused on getting the system down to a science at the Rideau Centre, with plans to branch out into other CF properties such as Toronto’s Eaton Centre in 2024.
It’s another step forward for Trexity, which has raised more than $6 million in seed funding and is on pace to triple its revenues from 2022. But Ahuja teases that there’s much more to come in the new year as Trexity continues to expand to more Canadian cities and form new alliances.
“We’ve got a lot of things bubbling,” he said.