Uniqlo’s Canadian store locations: discussion

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Japanese fast-fashion retailer Uniqlo is working with a broker to open Canadian stores. Uniqlo’s choice of American locations can be considered an indication of what it wants in Canada: prime retail space on busy streets and in prominent malls. Expect large Canadian Uniqlo flagships, as well as some smaller mall-based stores. However, its cautious American expansion foreshadows what’s in store for Canada, at least in the short term, as only a handful of American cities see multiple Uniqlo locations. This will change, eventually, as Uniqlo’s goal is to become the world’s top-selling fashion retailer. We’ll explain why Uniqlo stores will open in many Canadian markets over the next several years, and we’ll then discuss some of its most likely Canadian locations. 

Sources inform us that Uniqlo is talking to Canada’s largest mall landlords as its searches for Canadian retail space. In March, the Financial Post reported that Uniqlo was in talks to open a 35,000 square foot space at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre. Toronto and Vancouver are ideal cities for the Japanese retailer: both see exceptionally high retail sales, large Asian populations, and considerable Uniqlo brand awareness. Other desirable markets include Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary, and possibly Ottawa and Winnipeg, as the company continues expanding. 

Uniqlo’s first American stores were unsuccessful, having opened in three suburban New Jersey malls in the early 2000’s. The small stores failed to attract local shoppers, who were lacking brand awareness. Uniqlo stepped back and re-entered the United States via larger stores in prominent urban locations. Concentrating on metropolitan New York City and San Francisco, Uniqlo opened large flagships as well as stores in top local malls. It subsequently announced expansion plans for Los Angeles, Boston, and Philadelphia. Its current store opening strategy involves placing multiple stores in each market, leverage advertising dollars in each city. The American midwest is noticeably absent of Uniqlo stores, at least for now. We’re told, however, that Chicago is first for its midwest expansion once Uniqlo solidifies brand dominance on the coasts. 

In Canada, Uniqlo may use a similar geographic strategy, concentrating its first stores in Toronto and Vancouver. The company plans to overtake Zara as the world’s largest clothing retailer and to that end, we can expect Uniqlo stores in various Canadian cities. Given the retailer’s recent propensity towards opening in busy malls and on busy commercial streets, we’ll discuss a few Canadian locations where Uniqlo stores are likely. 

Toronto – Toronto is an obvious choice for Uniqlo: Canada’s largest city also boasts the nation’s most comprehensive retail. Uniqlo will likely open a large, splathy flagship in the core, either in or close to the Toronto Eaton Centre. Queen Street West is possible, as is the Bloor-Yorkville area. Sources tell us that the Yorkdale Uniqlo deal is done, with a 30-35,000 square foot location expected to open in 2016. Uniqlo will likely open in the new retail wing anchored by Nordstrom, in the northeastern portion of the new retail space. Busy malls such as Sherway Gardens and Mississauga’s Square One are also likely candidates for Uniqlo. 

Vancouver – Sources tell us that Uniqlo wants to open a large store on Vancouver’s Robson Street, which should come as no surprise: Robson is the city’s most popular shopping street, boasting flagships for Zara, Roots, LululemonVictoria’s Secret and others. Pacific Centre is another possibility, being exceptionally busy, and the soon-to-be home of Nordstrom as well as an expanded and renovated Holt Renfrew flagship. Oakridge Centre, Metropolis at Metrotown, Richmond Centre and West Vancouver’s Park Royal are also top contenders for Uniqlo. 

Montreal – Sainte Catherine Street is a logical choice for a Uniqlo flagship: the busy street boasts similar tenants as Vancouver’s Robson Street. Carrefour Laval has emerged as the region’s top suburban mall, hoasting millions of visitors annually. Lifestyle centre Quartier Dix30 is a possibility, are as several popular suburban malls including Les Galeries d’Anjou, Fairview Pointe Claire and Centre Rockland

Edmonton – West Edmonton Mall is an obvious choice for Uniqlo: the entertainment-themed mall boasts some North America’s top-selling chain store locations. We’d expect a large Uniqlo location there, if it chooses to open in Edmonton. Southgate Centre is another possibility for Uniqlo, and any further Edmonton locations are anyone’s guess. 

Calgary – Chinook Centre is Uniqlo’s likely first choice for Calgary: the popular suburban mall hosts millions of visitors, and will boast Canada’s first Nordstrom store location. Its TopShop, H&M and other flagships do exceptional sales. Southcentre and Market Mall continue to be strong, and CrossIron Mills is a possibility for Uniqlo, as well. A downtown Calgary Uniqlo is possible, though Calgary’s suburbs continue to dominate the market. 

Ottawa – If Uniqlo enters the Ottawa market, we’d expect Rideau Centre to be its first choice. The overhauled mall will feature Canada’s second Nordstrom store, scheduled to open next year. La Maison Simons will open in the mall’s expansion, a year later. Canada’s second-largest Zara store will open in the mall’s expansion, and H&M is expected to announce a Rideau Centre location shortly. Other top Ottawa malls include the Bayshore Shopping Centre, St. Laurent Centre, and Les Promenades Gatineau

Winnipeg – If Uniqlo chooses Winnipeg, Polo Park is its likely first choice. The city’s premier mall will soon see the opening of an H&M, and interesting plans are in store for a further mall expansion. Time will tell if the Seasons at Tuxedo and St. Vital Centre could become home to the retailer. 

Quebec City – Uniqlo could eventually open in one or more popular malls, including Laurier Quebec, Place Ste-Foy or Les Galeries de la Capitale

We’ll update you when we learn more about Uniqlo’s new Canadian store locations. 

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson
Located in Toronto, Craig is the Publisher & CEO of Retail Insider Media Ltd. He is also a retail analyst and consultant, Advisor at the University of Alberta School Centre for Cities and Communities in Edmonton, former lawyer and a public speaker. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for over 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Question #1: Is Uniqlo still being courted by department stores such as The Bay and Nordstrom to open up locations within them?

    Question #2: It’s too bad Uniqlo couldn’t take over a downtown Vancouver location like Sincalir Centre; contemporary Japanese clothing brand takes over historic architectural landmark.

    • Thank you for your questions, Emmy. Rumour has it that Nordstrom has an interest Uniqlo’s Canadian operations, though Nordstrom denies this. We’ll have to wait and see – it may have just been a rumour. A source informs us that HBC wanted Uniqlo’s Canadian rights but abandoned those efforts.

      Uniqlo would have been a wonderful replacement for Plaza Escada at the Sinclair Centre. Instead, the Federal Government Citizenship Courts will occupy that space. Leone occupies 25,000 sq ft of prime Sinclair Centre space… at least for now.

  2. I think Winnipeg, especially Seasons of Tuxedo, has strong potential due to a large population of Asian immigrants living near there. As the article mentions familiarity with the brand bad helped them when looking for new markets. Also the struggles of Seasons to attract tenants is becoming fairly well documented meaning the Uniqlo would have any easier time negotiating lease concessions than at in demand Polo Park where they are constantly full up.

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