Bloor Street Retail Transformation: Luxury Brands, Renovations, and New Openings in Toronto [Podcast]

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Craig and Lee dive into the dynamic changes taking place on Bloor Street West in downtown Toronto. The episode explores the city’s evolving luxury run, focusing on the influx of luxury brands, extensive renovations, and exciting store openings that are reshaping the retail landscape.

Craig highlights the grand arrival of Ferragamo, a renowned Italian luxury brand, on Bloor Street. He shares insights from his interview with Ferragamo’s CEO, shedding light on the brand’s strategic choice to establish a presence on one of the world’s most prestigious luxury retail streets. Alongside Ferragamo, children’s retailer Bonpoint has also set up shop, adding to the diverse mix of offerings on Bloor Street.

The hosts delve into the developments at iconic addresses like 110 Bloor Street West, 100 Bloor Street, and even discuss the closures and future plans for the area. Craig underscores the flurry of construction activity and the promising outlook for Bloor Street’s retail scene, debunking earlier concerns of vacancies and emphasizing the street’s resurgence as a retail powerhouse. With new luxury boutiques, renovations, and intriguing arrivals on the horizon, Bloor Street continues to be a captivating retail destination in Toronto.

The Weekly podcast part of the The Retail Insider Podcast Network by Retail Insider Canada and is available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or through our dedicated RSS feed for Overcast and other podcast players.

Transcript

[00:00:00] Announcer: This is a Retail Insider podcast. You’re listening to “The Weekly”.

[00:00:07] 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.

[00:00:22] Craig Patterson: Hello, everyone.

[00:00:23] Lee Rivett: Now for this week, there’s been a number of changes in Craig’s neighborhood in downtown Toronto on Bloor Street. So Craig, let’s go through that but where would you like to start?

Ferragamo Bloor Street (Image: Craig Patterson)

[00:00:34] Craig Patterson: Let’s start with a retailer that just opened – Ferragamo. Or maybe still called Salvador Ferragamo. A luxury brand out of Italy has opened a beautiful store on Bloor Street. It’s in The Colonnade, which is a historical building built in the 50s. It was the first mixed-use building in Canada with retail office and residential all in one building. And Ferragamo has opened almost a 6,000 square foot store there. It looks beautiful. It’s got a wide range of product. I spoke to the CEO, did an interview, and recently we did an article on it as well.

[00:01:08] Lee Rivett: And before we move on… for Ferragamo, was there any strategy for the Bloor location that you got from the brand (as far as why they’re opening there)?

[00:01:17] Craig Patterson: Yes, I spoke to the CEO and she was saying that Bloor Street is one of the most important luxury retail streets in the world and that Ferragamo had wanted to be there for a long time. And was just looking for the right space and I guess eventually this one space made sense for Ferragamo.

It was actually two spaces. It was a combined former “Coach” store (Coach being the brand for its bags and whatnot) and a former location for “Mulberry” (which is a UK based luxury brand) which had pulled out of the Canadian market during the pandemic.

So Jordan Karp being the broker for Ferragamo in this case, representing the tenant negotiated a deal with Morgard, which is the owner and landlord of the Colonnade at 131 Bloor Street West. A deal was done to bring Ferragamo to Bloor Street.

Ferragamo has been somewhat of a staple in luxury retail. Many cities have these stores, but downtown Toronto just didn’t have one, but Yorkdale has had one. There’s also one at Square One in Mississauga and one in downtown Vancouver, which is also going to be relocating at some point.

Bonpoint on Bloor (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

[00:02:21] Lee Rivett: Nice. And moving along on Bloor Street, Bonpoint is another retailer that recently opened up on the block, right?

[00:02:28] Craig Patterson: Yeah, it’s a children’s retailer. I haven’t popped in yet as of the time of this recording, but it looks like a beautiful store from the outside. I was just running by to get some lunch nearby and a Bonpoint (a children’s retailer out of France) has opened.

I think it’s probably its first corporate store in Canada. It’s the second location for the brand in Canada. One opened a couple of years ago in Vancouver on South Granville. And this is the second location, so it’s on Bloor Street, and we’re hoping to bring some wealthy parents downtown, and maybe they’ll shop at some other stores as well in the neighborhoods.

It looks lovely. It’s at 151 Bloor Street West, which is at the base of an office tower. It has three other retail tenants. Peloton, Max Mara and Mont Blanc. Two luxury brands and one exercise bike brand. And they’re not cheap, those things.

[00:03:21] Lee Rivett: And moving down the street to Van Cleef & Arpels, I love their “Midnight in Paris” watch. I’ve tried it on and I adore it. I’m super glad to hear that there is some news of that opening up on Bloor Street, right?

[00:03:34] Craig Patterson: Yes, Van Cleef & Arpels is pulling down hoarding getting ready to open its Bloor Street store. Very exciting news – it’s looking beautiful. It’s 100 Bloor Street West, so it’s located next to Hermes and which opened in, I think, 2017 on Bloor Street. Van Cleef & Arpels’ location most recently housed a Zegna store, which was a partnership with Ermenegildo Zegna (the brand) and Harry Rosen (the retailer). That shut down a while ago and now Van Cleef Arpels is the new tenant. Stunning beautiful store with a chandelier inside and the interior reminds me of the Vancouver and Yorkdale locations for Van Cleef & Arpels.

Shuttered Pottery Barn and Soon-to-Open Van Cleef & Arpels Bloor Street (Image: Craig Patterson)

It’s very dark and moody, luxurious. It’s got the silver around the windows the chandeliers. It’s got that very iconic look for the retailer and a great addition to Bloor Street and carrying some apparently very expensive jewelry as well. Which will compliment, of course, Rolex, which is in the process of finalizing its build out for its flagship store across the street.

And it’s a partnership with its host retailer, Royal De Versailles. Which has a store in the same building that’s located at, I have to get my addresses right here, 101 Bloor Street West, which is the base of an office building. I’ve got to try to remember my addresses now because I’m doing this by memory, but Rolex, again, it’ll be a great retailer to have in the neighborhood.

And then the Royal De Versailles jewellery store, which actually has a little Rolex shop with its own facade onto Bloor Street. I think Royal De Versailles is supposed to do a renovation and that will be interesting to see. I think around 2024 or maybe 2025 is when that’s going to be completed. These are all expensive stores and they’re all clustered in one area.

[00:05:12] Lee Rivett: And moving into some unfortunate news, there’s been some closures on Bloor Street as well, right?

[00:05:17] Craig Patterson: Yes. It was not a surprise, but it finally happened. MCM, a German brand (I think it’s actually Korean owned now) shut its store recently on Bloor Street. So there’s paper or covering over the windows, there’s a sign that says that the store has relocated to the Yorkdale Shopping Centre. It’s a little bit disappointing, but the building that MCM was in on Bloor Street, as well as a few other retailers connected, even Brooks Brothers, and COS …. they’re all on temporary leases now because the plan is to eventually demolish that block and put a very tall residential building there. They’re proposing 70 something floors and it would have retail at the base. So hopefully it’s good retail. I think that’s important. High ceilings, deep, hopefully, wide facade, something that luxury brands might like. So I hope the developer actually does that.

Former MCM on Bloor Street (Image: Craig Patterson)

But again, that’s another big change coming to Bloor. I don’t know exactly what the timeline is. I got something in the mail from a law firm saying that they were holding meetings with residents and are trying to get opinions and what can be built there.

It sounds like that process has not gone through yet. But all kinds of stuff is happening. Another retailer that had shut it was more of a pop up. It was OTW, which was a sneaker store. It was located in The Colonnade. It had been in, I think, a couple of other locations in the neighborhood as well. It’s gone, but I think it’s got some other locations anyways that was not a luxury retailer, I would say.

Another space that’s for lease now is the Kit & Ace space at 102 Bloor Street West. Something good or maybe more than one brand will move in if they can split the space up, but it’s looking good.

[00:06:51] Lee Rivett: Well, there’s a couple things happening at 110 Bloor Street as well, right?

[00:06:54] Craig Patterson: Yeah. So 110 Bloor Street West. That’s an overhaul of that retail podium of that building, which is pretty iconic. That address has had a lot of luxury retailers over the years. I think Canada’s first Louis Vuitton was in there. Marc Laurent, the luxury multi brand retailer, had been in there years ago. Celine had a store in there many years ago.

So there’s been all kinds of retailers, but now it’s being ripped apart, almost finished very exciting development. It’s going to have the largest, at least for now, Saint Laurent store in North America. It’s about 10,000 square feet with a massive two level facade on Bloor street.

110 Bloor Street (Image: Craig Patterson)

I think that’s very exciting. And on the Bloor street side of 110 is also going to be Alexander Wang, which is a New York city based fashion designer who’s got some controversy behind him. You can Google it. I’m not going to get into it here, but it’s not good, and Ann Fontaine known for beautiful white shirts, the French brand and Paris Baguette, which is probably almost finished now. It’s a food service business, which is going to occupy a space at 110 across from Saint Laurent. Probably where I’ll be going because that’s my price point, but it’s exciting stuff that is going to be happening at 110 Bloor. And then in the back, there’s some stuff happening as well.

There’s going to be Othership, which is a they call it a bathhouse. It’s not that type, but it’s a place where people can go and socialize and sweat. And I don’t know what else, but I’m going to go and check it out when it’s open and something else I won’t talk about yet. An exciting development. It’s, I think, the largest construction project on the street in terms of an overhaul of a facade and of the retailers within it currently on Bloor Street.

[00:08:27] Lee Rivett: And what about 100 Bloor Street?

[00:08:28] Craig Patterson: Yes, so 100 Bloor, we don’t know yet, but those who’ve been wondering for years about that Pottery Barn space. With the theater facade part of it’s been leased, so we don’t know to who yet, but we’ll be announcing that at some point here. Exciting stuff, but not the entire space has been leased.

JLL is still leasing some of it we’ll be talking more about that eventually. We’ll also be talking a bit about the corner of Bay and Bloor Street, something big is going to be coming there, but we won’t talk about that yet. Another thing we’ll mention too more on the luxury stretch is the former Club Monaco building, which I really think should have become a Ralph Lauren store. So I believe it’s still for lease.

Basically, the reason I wanted to talk about this Lee is because there’s this flurry of construction activity on Bloor Street right now. And I’m only talking about Bloor Street. I’m not even talking about Bloor-Yorkville or Yorkville Avenue, which we’ve talked about recently.

Former Club Monaco Bloor (Image: Craig Patterson)

But the construction, I guess you’d say it’s been a bit disruptive, but. It’s part of a good news story because I remember during the pandemic, the Toronto Star did an article and basically to sum it up, it was like the ‘woes of Bloor Street’. ‘There’s all kinds of vacancies’. The Hudson Bay story just closed, but the journalist who did the story didn’t know everything that was going on at the time.

I think, on the surface, it did look like things were really bad on Bloor Street, but what was really happening was a shuffle. Brokers were doing deals with landlords plans were being made and I was told by one broker doing deals on Bloor Street that now there’s an issue of really not enough space left to put tenants that people want.

Shuttered Dolce & Gabbana (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

There was a Dolce Gabbana store on Bloor Street till recently. It relocated up to the Yorkdale Shopping Centre but the building’s been leased. I’m not going to say to who because I’ve agreed not to, but these deals have been done. It’s exciting news. This is all wonderful stuff happening on Bloor Street right now.

[00:10:32] Lee Rivett: I think you were worried about the Bloor-Yorkville area, weren’t you?

[00:10:35] Craig Patterson: I was a bit worried about Bloor-Yorkville in terms of the neighborhood competing against Yorkdale and Yorkdale getting all of these stores. Yorkville and Bloor Street are also getting all kinds of luxury retailers and sometimes they’re bigger than the Yorkdale locations. And so we will see where it goes. But what’s interesting is the brand that’s moving into the old Dolce Gabbana is also opening up at Yorkdale and these will be first to Canada stores.

I’ll be reporting on these things for a while here now. I think I’ll fill in the gaps of what I’ve just talked about here in the coming weeks and months as we continue to report on what’s happening in Bloor, Yorkville and on Bloor Street.

[00:11:20] Lee Rivett: Oh, and before you go you wanted to also talk about the Holt Renfrew on Bloor Street, right?

[00:11:25] Craig Patterson: Yeah, so we’ll talk about the stretch of Bloor Street. It’s not quite as luxurious, I guess you would say, between Yonge Street and Bay Street. It’s got a Fabricland, but, we’ve talked about this in previous podcasts and I wrote about it, the Kimmel family that’s going to be co developing that piece of real estate there at Bloor and Balmuto Streets also owns Fabricland and so therefore put its retail tenant into the former H&M building until it’s demolished.

But nevertheless, that block has two major retail things happening. We’ve already announced one of them that was Arc’teryx doing what I believe would be its largest store in the world to date. That’s located in the Holt Renfrew Centre with a door, it’ll have a door on to Bloor Street. It’ll be almost 10,000 square feet and I think it’s going to have a facade that’s going to look like it’s two floors.

Future Arc’teryx Bloor (Image: Craig Patterson)

The store won’t be two floors inside, but it’s going to have an incredible presence. I’m really excited to see what this Arc’teryx is going to look like when it’s done. Not a luxury brand, but it’s a good quality Vancouver based outdoor lifestyle brand that must have a lot of money behind it right now because I’m seeing all kinds of stores being built.

There’s one being built at Yorkdale as well.

[00:12:31] Lee Rivett: Weren’t you also talking about Brown Shoes coming in as well?

[00:12:34] Craig Patterson: And another tenant coming, which I think people were questioning. It will be between the Alo Yoga store (this is at 60 Bloor Street West, there’s an Alo Yoga right on the corner). And then Holt Renfrew has its big store at 50 Bloor Street West, and it’s got a Saint Laurent concession currently, which I’m assuming is probably moving because I don’t know why Saint Laurent would keep its concession at Holt Renfrew when it’s going to have a 10,000 square foot store within a stone’s throw away, but we never know.

But nevertheless so Brown Shoes is going to take about 4,300 square feet is what Eric Ouaknine was telling us head of retail for Browns and a 60 Bloor Street West located in between Holt Renfrew and Alo Yoga. So this is I think a great tenant, the space actually sat vacant for a few years.

Future Browns Shoes on Bloor (Image: Craig Patterson)

And in fact, I think it’s been vacant since 2018. It had been part of the Holt Renfrew store for a while connected to it. So it was actually a situation where Holt Renfrew had blasted through from 50 Bloor Street West into 60 Bloor Street West to retail to add an extra about 3,800 square feet. Years ago it was part of a men’s store that used to be there, but the men’s store relocated in 2014 over to 100 Bloor Street West it has been vacant for a while, but yeah, so I think it’s terrific. We don’t have enough shoe stores in Bloor- Yorkville.

There’s only a handful there. There’s Ron White and Jean Paul Fortin. And then Holt Renfrew has a footwear department in each of its stores, the men’s and women’s stores. But I think Brown Shoes coming into the neighborhood is a wonderful thing.

I’m a fan. Brown’s has had a presence in Yorkville since I think the 70s when it opened a store in Hazleton Lanes. I don’t remember that. I’m too young, of course.

[00:14:14] Lee Rivett: But thanks for going through a lot of this stuff. There just seems to be so much going on Bloor Street, so it’s really exciting.

[00:14:20] Craig Patterson: So what we’ll do moving forward is we’ll continue to discuss what’s happening on Bloor Street in Toronto. We’ll announce what’s going to be coming where Nordstrom Rack used to be. There’s Yonge and Bloor. Across from what will become an Apple store, there’ll be a Lululemon store on another corner, and then there used to be there’s a Royal Bank on the other corner, but a Hudson Bay department store used to occupy the space in behind.

Yonge and Bloor (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

But lots of stuff again happening even just right at that core iconic corner of Yonge and Bloor and more to come. So I think it’s really exciting. We’ll be reporting on these things here. So everyone keep following us.

Subscribe to our newsletter and keep following us at Retail Insider because we’re going to keep trying to report on these things here as we can. So it’s exciting news and we love retail here.

[00:15:05] Lee Rivett: That sounds like a bumper sticker. But thanks for going through the updates on Bloor Street. We’ll have more of these and otherwise chat with you next week, Craig.

Thank you so much, everyone. Take care and bye for now.

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