The prominent downtown Toronto Hudson’s Bay department store at 44 Bloor Street East will shut down permanently this spring, marking the end of a 47-year run for the store. From 1974 to 1991 the Bloor & Yonge Hudson’s Bay store acted as the company’s flagship until a former Simpsons store in downtown Toronto was rebranded to a Hudson’s Bay nameplate to replace it.
The news follows a Retail Insider report in July of 2021 after landlord Brookfield removed Bay-branded signage from the top of an office tower on the Hudson’s Bay Centre site. The Hudson’s Bay Centre opened in 1974 with a multi-level Hudson’s Bay department store as an anchor with the adjacent new tower containing its new head offices.
The then-260,000 square foot store opening on August 7, 1974 was an exciting one given that this was the first Hudson’s Bay-branded location in Toronto, not to mention its new flagship. For years prior to that, the downtown Winnipeg store served as the company’s flagship — the downtown Winnipeg store shut permanently in late 2020.
In 1974 the shiny new Toronto Bay store became a competitor in the market as it added women’s luxury fashions to compete with other department stores already present in the downtown core. That included Eaton’s which had a massive standalone store on Queen Street at the time, and Simpsons which operated across the street. In 1979 a new Eaton’s store opened closer to Dundas Street in the new Eaton Centre complex that prior to the pandemic was the busiest shopping centre in North America in terms of footfall, by far. Closer to Hudson’s Bay on Bloor is Holt Renfrew which in 1979 unveiled its current store, albeit a bit smaller at the time.
In 1978, the Hudson’s Bay Company acquired competitor Simpsons which had a store spanning nearly a million square feet at the southeast corner of Yonge and Queen Streets. The store continued to operate as Simpsons until 1991 when the Hudson’s Bay Company made the decision to retire the Simpsons nameplate from all stores including the downtown location which became Hudson’s Bay. Given the architecture and vastness of the former Simpsons flagship, it was deemed to be the new company flagship for Hudson’s Bay. Only two years prior, the Simpsons store saw a $30 million investment that some referred to as “the miracle on Queen”. Included in the store renovation was the world’s largest cosmetics department as well as a gourmet food hall in the basement.
For over 30 years Hudson’s Bay has operated two stores in downtown Toronto, and that will come to an end when the Bloor Street store closes in May of this year. Staff in the store have been notified of the closure.
For this report, the Hudson’s Bay Company provided the following statement:
“HBC continually looks at opportunities to optimize its real estate portfolio. Given the unique proximity to the Hudson’s Bay Queen Street flagship location in Toronto, Hudson’s Bay has made the decision to close its Bloor Street store on May 31, 2022. The flagship store is located just 2.5 km from Bloor on Queen Street, and we will continue to serve the community with a seamless omnichannel experience at that location and through TheBay.com.
We are committed to treating every associate with respect and fairness through this process. All eligible associates will receive appropriate employment separation packages and transfer opportunities will be explored where feasible.”
Interestingly, in 2013 the Hudson’s Bay Company had looked at replacing the Hudson’s Bay Centre Hudson’s Bay store with a 300,000 square foot Saks Fifth Avenue location that would have competed with nearby Holt Renfrew. A deal was eventually reached where Cadillac Fairview bought the Hudson’s Bay building on Queen and its adjacent office tower, with Saks opening its first Canadian store in 2016 within the Hudson’s Bay building. Sources said that the proposed Hudson’s Bay Centre Saks announcement was part of a tactic in HBC’s negotiations with Cadillac Fairview to buy the Queen Street flagship store.
The Hudson’s Bay Centre is a massive complex housing the current department as well as a retail mall, 1,100 stall parking facility and a 35 storey office tower. A W Hotel is under construction on the site at the base of a tall rental apartment building.
The Hudson’s Bay Centre connects to the subway interchange below with a mall retail component spanning 213,000 square feet according to landlord Brookfield Properties. Tenants other than Hudson’s Bay include a Longo’s grocery store, Dollarama, LCBO, and small businesses in the concourse-level mall and a food court. The 35-storey office tower above it spans 535,000 square feet and was designed by architect Craig & Boake. When it was built, the 2 Bloor East office tower housed offices for the Hudson’s Bay Company and with Workmen’s Compensation Board — both tenants were announced in 1971 before the tower’s completion.
Landlord Brookfield provided a statement for this article:
“While we are sorry to see the departure of an iconic long-term tenant from this location, Hudson’s Bay remains a strong and valued tenant at a number of Brookfield’s properties and we look forward to our ongoing partnership with them.”
The exit of Hudson’s Bay from the complex this spring will usher in redevelopment. A Brookfield representative went on to say in the statement, “We are excited by the opportunity to re-envision and transform this key asset at one of the most important locations in the City of Toronto. We will be submitting an application to the City of Toronto for planning approvals to bring Brookfield’s vision for the future of the property in the coming months.”
That vision wasn’t explicitly shared, and plans are expected to involve a partnership with the City of Toronto which has earmarked well over a billion dollars to overhaul the subway interchange under the Hudson’s Bay Centre. Some are also speculating that the on-site office tower at the Hudson’s Bay Centre could be demolished for a much taller building.
We’ll follow up on this story with more photos of the final days prior to the store’s closing at the end of May.
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