Retail Photo Tour: Downtown Toronto Retailers Reopen After 105 Days in Lockdown

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Monday, March 8th, 2021 was the first day that Toronto re-entered the lockdown “grey zone” after more than 100 days in a stay-at-home order. Retail Insider toured certain parts of the city today in an attempt to showcase what we saw while walking through downtown Toronto on the first day of reopening.

Retailers deemed ‘non-essential’ during lockdowns were permitted to reopen Monday morning at 25% capacity. In-person dining, visiting gyms, and personal services are still not permitted.

As part of the tour we visited Bloor Street West, Yorkville, CF Toronto Eaton Centre, The PATH, and Front Street.

Bloor Street

We had the opportunity to explore the Bloor-Yorkville neighbourhood and will be discussing what we saw. Overall the area was quiet. It is becoming apparent that food and beverage businesses help drive foot traffic to neighbourhoods and given that in-person dining is still prohibited, the normally busy Yorkville area has far fewer visitors than one might see if the neighbourhood’s dining establishments and services were open.

One Bloor / Nordstrom Rack – Photo by Craig Patterson (March 8, 2021)

Starting at the corner of Yonge and Bloor, the Nordstrom Rack store had a lineup of people looking to shop or return purchases. Nordstrom Rack was one of few retailers that appeared busy on Monday afternoon. The retailer opened at the base of the 1 Bloor Street East mixed-use tower in the spring of 2018.

H&M at 13 Bloor Street West – Photo by Craig Patterson (March 8, 2021)

We had expected to see a lineup in front of the H&M store at 13-15 Bloor Street West as was common in the summer when stores were open, but Monday afternoon was still relatively quiet on the ‘Mink Mile’. Construction noise could be heard for ‘The ONE’ project, which is set to include a residential tower spanning more than 1000 feet at the southwest corner of Yonge and Bloor, which will feature a boutique hotel and an Apple store when completed in 2023.

Zara and Aritzia – Photo by Craig Patterson (March 8, 2021)

We also expected to see lineups in front of Zara and Aritzia —  both stores were relatively quiet. A Fossil store between the two closed permanently several months ago.

Holt Renfrew Bloor Street – Photo by Craig Patterson (March 8, 2021)

The Holt Renfrew store at 50 Bloor Street West is open again and we saw several customers coming in and out of the store. We reported last month on the completion of Holts’ new facade and ground-floor renovation, both of which were completed in November during lockdowns.

Bay & Bloor – Photo by Craig Patterson (March 8, 2021)

The corner of Bloor and Bay was seeing a fairly typical amount of foot traffic. The Gap store at 60 Bloor Street West closed forever earlier this year. Hakim Optical, considered to be an ‘essential’ retailer during lockdowns, remained open while its neighbours were all shut. Hakim opened over the summer.

Bay & Bloor – Photo by Craig Patterson (March 8, 2021)

The photo above includes the Maison Birks jewellery store to the right, which saw an overhaul in 2019, as well as grocerant, Eataly, which opened in late 2019. The shuttered Gap store is at the left of the photo, which was taken in front of the TD Bank at 77 Bloor Street West.

Banana Republic, Goodlife Fitness and Roots – Photo by Craig Patterson (March 8, 2021)

We reported last year that Banana Republic had shut its store at 80 Bloor Street West. A Roots store remains open, while the Goodlife Fitness gym upstairs remains closed due to pandemic restrictions.

MCM, Fire & Flower – Photo by Craig Patterson (March 8, 2021)

The row of retailers between 83 and 95A Bloor Street West have struggled as of late. The Victorinox space at the corner is now vacant after the retailer shuttered permanently last year. MAC Cosmetics also shut its Bloor Street location last year. Fire & Flower cannabis never ended up opening on Bloor Street and the space is listed for lease. Upscale retailers MCM, APM Monaco, and COS remain open, as well as a clearance retailer currently occupying the former Hugo Boss storefront at 83 Bloor Street West.

Harry Rosen at 82 Bloor Street W – Photo by Craig Patterson (March 8, 2021)

The Harry Rosen flagship store at 82 Bloor Street West opened Monday morning, and CEO, Larry Rosen, himself made the announcement on social media from within the store (Monday was also his birthday). The Harry Rosen store appeared to be quiet, and the Bellair Street entrance was covered in plywood on Monday morning after being used as a click-and-collect access point for shoppers not able to enter the store during lockdowns.

Hermes and Holt Renfrew Men – Photo by Craig Patterson (March 8, 2021)

Hermes and Holt Renfrew Men at 100 Bloor Street West reopened Monday morning. Both stores were relatively quiet. Hermes had been offering curbside pick-up during lockdowns and was using a service door facing Bellair Street to deliver goods to vehicles during that period.

The Colonnade at 131 Bloor street west – Photo by Craig Patterson (March 8, 2021)

It was business as usual for many of the retailers at The Colonnade at 131 Bloor Street West. Over the summer, the massive Dior flagship saw lineups and we may see that again this upcoming weekend as shoppers are expected to converge on the area. German retailer Bogner signed a short-term lease to test a space next to Moncler at The Colonnade — the store opened in mid-November and the idea was to gage sales until March of 2021 before extending the lease. Due to the 105 day lockdowns, the Bogner store has only been open to the public for a few days despite having occupyied the leased space for nearly four months.

The Colonnade at 131 Bloor street west – Photo by Craig Patterson (March 8, 2021)

The above photo is also of The Colonnade, showing Prada, Cartier, Black Goat Cashmere, and Escada. The Escada stores in Toronto and Montreal remain open for the time being, but the Vancouver store unfortunately recently closed permanently. German luxury fashion brand Escada has been experiencing financial troubles and the future of the company is uncertain.

Winners / Homesense on Bloor Street West – Photo by Craig Patterson (March 8, 2021)

The Winners/HomeSense store at 110 Bloor Street West was one of few stores in Bloor-Yorkville with a lineup on Monday. Due to capacity limits, a door person monitored who came and left the store.

Gucci at 130 Bloor St W – Photo by Craig Patterson (March 8, 2021)

The impressive Gucci flagship store at 130 Bloor Street West recently saw a full renovation inside and out. We saw several customers in the store, which is expected to see lineups over the weekend.

Gucci’s popularity as a brand is said to have plateaued, and it remains to be seen how its Canadian stores do as consumers gravitate to other brands. Globally, Gucci’s growth has been explosive over the past several years.

The Burberry, Tiffany & Co, and Louis Vuitton stores were all open on Monday —  Burberry is at 144 Bloor Street West and Tiffany & Co. and Louis Vuitton occupy the retail podium at 150 Bloor Street West. We expect to see lineups over the weekend — during the summer all three stores saw tremendous interest from shoppers, particularly on weekends.

Village of Yorkville

The Deciem beauty store on Bellair Street, behind Harry Rosen, is again open for business. The store is expected to see consistent foot traffic moving forward due to the brand’s popularity.

Further north on Bellair Street at 77 Yorkville Avenue is the new Isaia storefront, currently under construction, which will open next month.

The Free People store on Yorkville Avenue was open with a couple of customers inside when we walked past. The Free People store at CF Toronto Eaton Centre was being cleared out Monday morning as it appears to have closed permanently.

Russell Oliver, aka ‘The Cashman’, will open a luxury consignment store this spring on Yorkville Avenue. The signage on the space can be identified in the above photos with the words ‘OHHH YEAH’. An adjacent space at 90 Yorkville Avenue is for lease, and on the other side at 86 Yorkville Avenue an upscale medi spa will open this spring according to the owner.

The Christian Louboutin store at 99 Yorkville Avenue reopened to shoppers on Monday morning. The store opened to fanfare in 2016 and is the only standalone Louboutin location in Canada.

The photo above was taken in front of the Brunello Cucinelli flagship store at 108 Yorkville Avenue. Across the street at 101 Yorkville Avenue is a building that was set to be redeveloped. First Capital Realty is now marketing the property for sale so the redevelopment plans as set out are uncertain.

The photo above is of the Chanel flagship store that opened at 98 Yorkville Avenue in the fall of 2017, as well as Stone Island, Versace, and Brunello Cucinelli. The doors of the Chanel store were wide open and we saw several people enter the store.

The photo above is of Cumberland Street, facing the Nespresso cafe, as well as Lululemon, Aveda, and Nicolas storefronts. SEE Eyewear recently shut permanently next to luxury retailer Nicolas and a new retailer has already leased the space to replace it.

Lovely Hazelton Avenue was quiet on a Monday afternoon. The street isn’t busy at the best of times, and is lined with a mix of retailers and art galleries. Canadian outerwear brand Nobis, which opened its flagship store at 20 Hazelton Avenue in late 2017, is in the process of shutting permanently with its stock being moved to the retailer’s Queen Street West location.

CF Toronto Eaton Centre

CF Toronto Eaton Centre has been preparing for this moment and outside of a few hiccups and retailers making the decision to open later this week, we had a pleasant experience.

We reported that Godiva was shutting all Canadian stores by the end of March 2021, so the sight of a closed storefront at the Queen Street entrance was expected.

Le Chateau is still in the process of closing its locations including the one at CF Toronto Eaton Centre, which is selling at up to 70% off via a receiver.

Our first stop, not pictured, was at the Disney Store. This image was taken from the line, which took some time to get through because folks needed to get their hands on limited-edition merchandise and a really nice 50% off sale on clearance. Because the stores in the Eaton Centre never had a Boxing Day or an opportunity to sell-off holiday/winter stock, this was a great time to secure deals as a consumer.

Surprisingly, women’s fashion retailer, Free People, has closed its store permanently in the mall.

All the merchandise and fixtures have been removed from the Free People space, leaving an empty storefront that was in the process of being covered with window decals.

There were stores, like Ever New Melbourne, which had lights on but left us wondering whether or not they would be re-opening.

A super quick trip across the street to confirm that yes, the Foot Locker at 306 Yonge Street has indeed opened. This would technically be its first day open to the public despite having finished renovations last year. The new Foot Locker is Toronto’s “Community Power Store” concept which we reported on back in December 2020. The space was formerly occupied by a Michael-Jordan-branded storefront that was renovated and rebranded last year.

There was a lineup around the corner to get into Foot Locker, and we’ll be doing a longer trip up Yonge Street in the days to come.

Heading back into the CF Toronto Eaton Centre, we walked through Nordstrom and came across this opportunity to share the four levels of the mall in a single photo.

The Danish Pastry House had not re-opened as of Monday. On the bottom floor, Eddie Bauer didn’t have lights on and the Calendar Club location across the hall was shuttered long before our latest stay-at-home order.

On level three, this image was taken outside of the Indigo book store and provides a number of storylines. Links of London beside Michael Kors will be replaced with a Jo Malone storefront this spring, while we haven’t heard what will be taking the vacated Stuart Weitzman location that closed in 2020. Upscale footwear brand Stuart Weitzman also operates a store at 151 Bloor Street West which sources say will eventually be closing permanently.

The sign is a little hidden, but we’re glad that Canada’s first standalone Ray-Ban store re-opened on Monday. More locations are expected to be announced soon.

This is the other view from the same vantage point, with the physical distancing and security being showcased. You can see the line for Sephora going back to True Religion Jeans, which we didn’t see open on Monday. Victoria’s Secret and Pink were not open either, but they had signage to let guests know that they will reopen on Wednesday.

On Monday, March 8th when the CF Toronto Eaton Centre opened, we found that the OVO store was closed and had the merchandise fully cleared out. A couple days later on March 10th, the store was re-opened with full stock.

We weren’t sure if the store had shut permanently, as the brand had closed its location on Dundas Street West. We’ll be circling back on this brand, as Drake is growing his footprint in The6ix and around the world.

A lineup in front of the Apple store is never a surprise, though this lineup is much shorter than what we’ve seen in the past. Apple moved downstairs to its current 14,000 square foot space in late 2019 and Canada Goose subsequently opened in the former 5,000 square foot Apple space.

Bently, Bell, and Bluenotes/Aeropostale were all in operation on Monday. This was a photo to show that stores with large entrances have actually adapted to have a single walkway in and out.

NYX Cosmetics announced that it was closing all of its Canadian stores back in November 2020, so this wasn’t a surprise to see the storefront papered up. Right beside the store is the Sunglass Hut, which is also freshly closed.

The line that you see is for the NIKE store, which is in between the newly-renovated Under Armour and the large Levi’s location. The Microsoft Store is still sitting empty across the hall, after the company announced in June 2020 that it would be permanently closing all 83 locations in the chain.

Purdy’s Chocolatier and the Cheese Garden didn’t open on Monday, and we also found that Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Freshii have both fully closed their operations on the first floor.

The Path

On our walk south from the CF Toronto Eaton Centre, we decided to visit the PATH which is the largest underground shopping centre in the world and is directly below the Financial District. Here are a few of the notable changes, with more photos and stories to be shared in future articles.

The PATH is full of hundreds of stores, and we’re going to do a full breakdown of all the news as things come out from the cloud of dust that was 2020. However, it was disheartening today to realize the volume of smaller retailers and services that did not make it through the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was the dry-cleaning location outside of the Sheraton Centre and next to the food court (below) that clearly couldn’t survive having no walk-through office traffic.

This is the view on a Monday at 1:30pm in First Canadian Place. The beautiful marble-clad shopping complex has been quiet for almost a year as many are still working from home.

Danier Leather, in the Toronto-Dominion Centre, didn’t reopen on Monday, and we are hopeful that the brand and all the other office-focused retailers in the PATH are able to make a strong return in the future.

St Lawrence Market Area/Front Street East

The Winners store on Front Street East in Toronto had a lineup on Monday. Winners/Homesense/Marshalls were all uniquely positioned during the pandemic, as the TJX brands don’t have an e-commerce platform. This meant that the lines were significant at two of the three Winners stores that we walked past on Monday, with the only one without a line being the Winners in the PATH at Scotia Plaza.

Below is an image of Urbinz, a smaller retailer on Front Street that was welcoming customers back with an incentive: 50% off regular merchandise. If you can, please visit these smaller stores, as these are the heart and soul of our communities.

We’ll be revisiting this ever-changing retail environment in Downtown Toronto throughout the next week so please stay tuned for more interesting news and observations.

Article Author

Dustin Fuhs
Dustin Fuhs
Dustin Fuhs is the Editor-in-Chief of Retail Insider, Canada's most read retail trade publication. He has over 20 years experience in the retail, marketing, entertainment and hospitality industries. He has worked with Retail Insider since October 2020 in a number of roles, including associate publisher of the Retail Insider magazine. Dustin was named as Editor-in-Chief of Retail Insider in 2022. Dustin was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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