The retail environment in Canada is proving more challenging than some U.S. retailers had anticipated.

Express said it will close all 17 of its stores in Canada, and discontinue its Canadian operations through its Canadian subsidiary, Express Fashion Apparel Canada Inc. The retailer will continue to operate 635 stores in the United States.

The company said its decision to exit Canada was part of its ongoing strategy to improve profitability and manage and optimize its store footprint. It also cited unfavorable conditions to retail up north.

“The challenging Canadian retail environment, coupled with unfavorable exchange rates prevented us from meeting the expectations we had when we entered the market in 2011,” said David Kornberg, president and CEO, Express. “Our overriding focus remains…