Holt Renfrew Extends Lease in Downtown Calgary while CF Chinook Centre Flourishes [Podcast]

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Craig and Lee talk about some recent retail news in Calgary. That includes Holt Renfrew extending its lease in downtown Calgary at The CORE while adding new brands including a ‘World of’ Gucci concession. They also discuss CF Chinook Centre which is seeing new retailers being added such as Nike and Uniqlo.

The Weekly podcast by Retail Insider Canada is available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or through our dedicated RSS feed for Overcast and other podcast players. Also check out our The Interview Series podcast where Craig interviews guests from across the Canadian retail landscape as part of the The Retail Insider Podcast Network.

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Transcript

Announcer
This is a ‘Retail Insider’ podcast. You’re listening to “The Weekly”.

Lee Rivett
Welcome to this week’s episode of “The Weekly” by Retail Insider. I’m Lee Rivett and I’m joined with the owner and publisher of Retail Insider Media, Craig Patterson, to discuss this week’s most read articles on retail-insider.com. So thanks for joining me, Craig. Now we are currently recording on March, 1, 2023 and we had a couple of articles that were coming out of Calgary that were very popular that we wanted to focus this podcast on. One was to do with the number of retailers that were going to be opening in Chinook Centre that’s just south of the downtown Calgary as well as Holt Renfrew confirming a long term agreement with The CORE shopping centre in downtown Calgary as well. So Craig, which would you rather start with the suburbs or more downtown?

Craig Patterson
Hello, everyone. Let’s start downtown Holt Renfrew extending its lease in downtown Calgary in a shopping centre called “The CORE”.

Lee Rivett
It’s a stunning shopping centre.

Craig Patterson
Well, in my opinion, “The CORE” shopping centre is the nicest looking downtown shopping centre in Canada. I just think they did an incredible job with that centre.

Lee Rivett
Remind me, who owns that shopping centre?

Craig Patterson
It’s owned by Ivanhoe Cambridge. It’s got a lovely Holt Renfrew store there, that’s about 150,000 square feet. About 30,000 square feet at the top on the fourth floor is not being used. So not all of that space is retail space. But it’s a lovely looking store.

Lee Rivett
Now is it normal for large format retailers like Holt Renfrew to sign long term leases? Or do they typically like the freedom or flexibility to kind of get out at any time?

Craig Patterson
I think it would be.

Lee Rivett
Now of course, it didn’t actually say how long the lease was going to be for in this long term. But do you have any guesses of what that might be?

Craig Patterson
My guess. I mean, the store has been there for 14 years, probably at least a five to 10 year lease. They didn’t specifically say in the press release, nor was it revealed how long that time period is going to be. My thought is given the investment that was made in that store, which was astronomical because it’s so big and so beautiful. It’s got to be for a good number of years, or at least I would hope it would be because that store I think is a real jewel in downtown Calgary and Edmonton does not have a Holt Renfrew store at all.

Lee Rivett
No. And how long has Holt Renfrew actually been in the Calgary marketplace for?

Craig Patterson
Yeah, so Holt Renfrew has been in the Calgary market since goodness me the 1970s or 1980s. It had some smaller stores at one time. Holts actually had three stores in the Calgary market. There was a small one downtown. I think it was Penny Lane mall or it was in that area.

Lee Rivett
Yes.

Craig Patterson
There’s a small one at the Chinook Centre, which is now CF Chinook Centre and a store at Market Mall as well in the suburbs.

Lee Rivett
Holt Renfrew opened in The CORE in about 1992 With initially 30,000 square feet and then it grew into the 149,000 square feet that it is today with the massive renovation. I think it was the original Eaton’s location in downtown Calgary which then got taken over by Sears. And then it got taken over by and then retrofitted out to become the present day Holt Renfrew as far as I recall.

Craig Patterson
It’s really beautiful architecture, a bit of history there. The Calgary Holt Renfrew store as we now know it, this large store opened in 2009. And it was the second location as part of Holt Renfrew strategy to create these large format superstores, essentially, which also include a lot of luxury brand concession boutiques within. The first store that Holt Renfrew did that was quite large under this new concept was in 2007, in Vancouver, in the downtown core. That new Holt Renfrew store, which at the time was 137,000 square feet in downtown Vancouver, has since expanded to about 190,000 square feet, but Calgary was the second one in terms of the superstore concept. And then we continued to see this expansion in 2012 with the Yorkdale store expansion, Bloor Street since 1979, has been pretty big. We eventually saw the store Sherway Gardens, which was quite small, close and relocate to Square One and about 130 to 140,000 square feet or so. And Montreal…. well, originally they were going to be expanding the big store on Sherbrooke Street to about 100,000 and something square feet but the plans were dashed and Holt Renfrew and Ogilvy merged there is now an Ogilvy store on St. Catherine Street. We know it today, a 250,000 square foot Holt Renfrew for Ogilvy store. So now we’ve got these big stores across the country. These big six flagship stores for Holt Renfrew exist while some smaller stores in markets like Ottawa, Quebec City and Edmonton have closed and anyways, I’m just giving a long bit of a rambling history around why downtown Calgary has this gigantic Holt Renfrew store and why other cities in Canada have them and why there are now so few of them compared to when Holt Renfrew used to have over 20 stores in the Canadian market, most of them being quite small, and some of them located in the lobbies of hotels.

Lee Rivett
So besides the long term tenant agreement between Holt Renfrew and the core in downtown Calgary, was there any additional juicy tidbits of news that came out of the release or any other juicy information about Holt Renfrew that we can share as well during the podcast?

Craig Patterson
Yeah. So what we saw in a press release and was confirmed by one of the head management people for Holt Renfrew in Western Canada, that on the main floor of the whole Renfrew store is going to be a ‘World of Gucci’ concession boutique. I’m not sure how large that’s going to be. But the ‘World of Gucci’ at Yorkdale in Toronto is somewhere between I think, 5000 and 6000 square feet. So it’s pretty gigantic for a concession.

Lee Rivett
Wow. Yeah. And they didn’t just have that space laying around. You know, what was there before that it’s going to be replacing?

Craig Patterson
There was a boutique for luxury brand Miu Miu and another boutique space, which I can’t remember which brand it is, but they are going to be joined together for this new Gucci which will have men’s and women’s ready to wear clothing as well as the bags and the shoes. And we’ve been tracking and hearing rumours for a while that Gucci was looking to move into the CF Chinook Centre in the suburbs.

Lee Rivett
Oh yeah. And that would have been a major blow to the downtown Calgary.

Craig Patterson
Yeah, we had Louie Vuitton in 2019 actually leave Holt Renfrew in downtown Calgary and move to the CF Chinook Centre. So there was a bit of a fear that all of the brands in Holt Renfrew would leave downtown and would move into CF Chinook Centre and that hasn’t really happened. CF Chinook Centre definitely has some really great brands. Tiffany is there. Tiffany is also downtown at Holt Renfrew. But, Holt Renfrew has really managed to hold on to its really key brands.

Lee Rivett
And speaking of CF Chinook Centre, which is south of the downtown in the suburbs of Calgary, we had a very popular article that was written by Mario Toneguzzi that talked about a lot of the new brands that were going to be coming to that mall, as well as some photos of the construction signage and stuff, but that was them actually building it out, which is very exciting, which we got a lot of comments at the very bottom of the article and it was very well read. So Craig, why don’t we go through a little bit about what some of those brands that were announced in the news coming to CF Chinook Centre.

Craig Patterson
Mario Toneguzzi, our journalist who’s based in Calgary, I think it was in January wrote an article about CF Chinook Centre and some new retailers that are coming in. So we got to announce (I don’t know if we were allowed to but we did and it was nobody questioned it) Uniqlo is going to be opening its first store in the Calgary market at CF Chinook Centre. We did know that Nike is building a flagship store on the second floor of the shopping centre. It’s joining three or four smaller retail spaces together to create this flagship space. And there were a few other retailers that were named in the article and we can get into it a little bit more because Lee you were actually just in Calgary quite recently.

Lee Rivett
Absolutely. And there’s a big flashy, like Nike store flagship that is going on the upper level, which was very interesting and obviously can’t miss it. But there’s other news that I thought was really interesting, like the Zara that was in the mall as well, right?

Craig Patterson
Apparently that store is expanding significantly according to the article that Mario wrote. Herschel, a Vancouver based brand known for its backpacks but it’s got all kinds of other product lines now, recently opened to store there. Jeweler Mejuri is about to open a jump to consumer brand which seems to be expanding like crazy. I think it’s got some venture capital. Jo Malone, the luxury fragrance and I think skincare brand (I’m not a big customer) will be opening its first and probably only Calgary location that’s standalone anyways at CF Chinook Centre.

Lee Rivett
Even Birk’s relocated its store in the mall.

Craig Patterson
Near Harry Rosen and Tory Burch and a few other retailers around in CF Chinook Centre. And Birks will have a Rolex boutique. And they’re actually – I’m not sure to be honest if it’s open yet. I don’t think it is. And also in the article that mentioned that Victoria’s Secret is going to be relocating at store I think nearby. Now Lee when you were in the CF Chinook Centre quite recently, you located the new Victoria’s Secret tell me about what you saw.

Lee Rivett
Yeah, well, when I was at the mall, I went through what they call it level one (which is ground level). I went through entrance number three, which is next Zara, the location that’s going to be expanding likely what we were mentioning before. You kind of walked by on the right the Pottery Barn Kids and Baby and then there’s a Marble Slab Creamery and then there’s this vacant 15 foot wide facade that has a construction hoarding saying that Victoria’s Secret is going to be coming here which is very small, because it’s just in that you know, artery that goes to the main flow of the traffic in the centre of the mall, which I was confused by. So I continued by the Jewels by Maxine’s and made a right and then continued walking down the main artery and all and suddenly there’s four separate storefronts that are being merged into one as the new location and new look at Victoria’s Secret which is kind of cool. And if you continue down past Pottery Barn and The Gap, you come across the old location of Victoria’s Secret in the mall that was, and I guess still is, but it’s 12,762 square feet. And all the shelves and stuff like that we’re still in there, you could still see the, you know, screens and stuff, but none of the merchandise was in there. So the look and feel of the Robson Street and Burrard Street location in downtown Vancouver is like the ‘legacy’ kind of look. So I’m looking forward to see what their new location ‘look’ looks like that I went around. But it was a surprise to me.

Craig Patterson
Ya, now CF Chinook Centre is a terrific shopping centre. One thing that blows me away, I’ve been in the mall at various times and the amount of foot traffic that you see particularly near the Louis Vuitton store — it’s almost like this aggressive crowd of people that’s always passing by. So it really shows that the mall has good foot traffic, but also it just feels really, really busy. So I think CF Chinook Centre will continue to see a lot of first market retailers at least Calgary opening there. It’s a very strong shopping centre as well as well, the article that Mario wrote had mentioned that there could be an intensification on the site in terms of adding mixed use around there, including possibly some residential, really what we’re seeing is about all of the downtown and a suburban shopping centre for shoppers and I’ve been asking myself lately and others as well, what’s the future of downtown cores in Canada? I’ll be tracking this we’ll be discussing it. Hopefully not at nauseam but definitely having future discussions around suburban versus downtown retail in Canada. Something I’m quite passionate about. And I’m definitely a downtown booster. So I really like it when downtown retail survive, but I like it when all retail is successful as well.

Lee Rivett
Well, thank you for going through the two popular articles around Calgary for this week. And I’ll talk with you next week, Craig.

Craig Patterson
Thank you so much, Lee, and thank you so much everyone for listening today. Thank you and take care.

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1 COMMENT

  1. An interesting discussion of the retail scene in Calgary, but the primary observation to me was made toward the end of the interview by Craig Patterson about the future of downtown cores in Canada. Until the last decade, one distinction of Canadian city centres relative to the United States has been the thriving commercial aspect. Unlike U.S. cities wracked by crime, disinvestment and a corrosive, bitter history of racial strife leading to the abandonment of their downtowns, Canada’s central urban main streets maintained their attractiveness with a full offer of department stores, specialty shops and amenities. We are now seeing a weakening of that distinction with the effect of auto-oriented suburban sprawl, the popularity of work-from-home and the post-coronavirus general flight to the suburbs. Stores that once would have planted their flagships on downtown main streets are now heading increasingly to outlying fortress super malls like Chinook, Yorkdale, West Edmonton and Carrefour Laval. New-to-market retailers gravitate more and more to suburban shopping malls away from inner-city thoroughfares, seeking a climate controlled regulated environment away from public sidewalks. There are now two major Canadian cities whose downtowns are essentially irrelevant for shoppers: Edmonton and Winnipeg, neither one with a single remaining large-format, multi-brand retailer. Meanwhile, Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal, all fortunately still featuring vibrant, busy city centres with large resident populations are increasingly challenged by the growing variety and development of suburban malls and amenities, not to mention all that free parking. Holt Renfrew’s faith in downtown Calgary is good news for that city as it struggles against office vacancies and the drawing power of Chinook’s retail vortex. Will the centre hold, or will it go the way of cities like Houston, Denver, Detroit and others. It will be telling to follow the similar situations for downtowns across Canada, especially in Montreal with the impending arrival of Royalmount, in Vancouver with the redevelopment of Oakridge, and in Toronto with the ongoing swing of the pendulum between Bloor/Yorkville and Yorkdale.

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