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Hudson’s Bay Initiates Unprecedented Store Renovations

Hudson’s Bay has embarked on several ambitious store renovations, reflecting the retailer’s new aesthetic standards. The Toronto flagship will act as a prototype of sorts, with recently completed interiors setting the standard for future store upgrades. We spoke with a retail expert to discuss Hudson’s Bay’s continued efforts to modernize the company’s fleet of stores, addressing unprecedented competition from a variety of retailers. 

MaryAnne Morin, chief merchant officer of Hudson’s Bay Company, recently told Women’s Wear Daily that changes in the Toronto Queen Street flagship will be reflected in other units across the chain. In addition to partially renovated flagships in Vancouver, Montreal and Yorkdale (Toronto), elements of the Queen Street renovation will be reflected in “other doors where men’s is highly penetrated,” she said, with the aesthetic showcased at Queen Street serving as “the new standard”. 

Hudson’s Bay locations to see renovations will include flagships in Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal. Suburban locations including Toronto’s Scarborough Town Centre and Calgary’s Southcentre will see substantial overhauls, adding to the company’s substantially completed units at Sherway Gardens in and Yorkdale Toronto, Square One in Mississauga, and Hillcrest Mall in Richmond Hill, Ontario.  

A number of landlords across the country have told us that Hudson’s Bay intends to renovate other locations over the next couple of years, including adding more licensed TopShop/Top Man shops-in-stores. 

The Toronto Eaton Centre flagship continues to see renovations, as it makes room for a four-level Saks Fifth Avenue on the Hudson’s Bay building’s east side. Hudson’s Bay operations have shifted westward as cosmetics, accessories and jewellery move into space formerly occupied by women’s shoes — which has expanded and moved upstairs to the store’s second-level. Luxury womenswear department The Room has also moved westward on the store’s third floor, making room for Saks Fifth Avenue’s new women’s floor. ‘Beauty bar’ The Ten Spot debuted on the building’s concourse earlier this month, and a bright 100,000 square foot fifth-floor men’s store opened earlier this year. 

The massive downtown Montreal Hudson’s Bay flagship will see renovations commencing in 2016, according to Hudson’s Bay president, Liz Rodbell. Some speculate that a large Saks Fifth Avenue store could also be carved out of the 655,000 square foot Bay space, though nothing is confirmed.

Downtown Vancouver’s Hudson’s Bay, which has seen substantial renovations over the past several years, will see renovations to its third and fourth levels, according to sources at the store. Currently occupied by women’s and children’s departments, renovations to these floors will see new interiors, as well as exposed windows allowing for increased natural light.

Scarborough Town Centre’s 252,600 square foot Hudson’s Bay renovations will commence in 2016, and they will be timely – the mall will eventually be home to one of three Toronto La Maison Simons stores, and sources say that the mall will see other improvements to be revealed at a later date. Scarborough Town Centre hopes to draw more local shoppers, as well as patrons from an expanded trade area extending into the Toronto region’s north and east suburbs. 

The 335,000 square foot downtown Ottawa Hudson’s Bay flagship will see a complete overhaul. A fully-renovated ground floor will see an expanded cosmetics floor, a new women’s shoe department, and an expanded handbags department with updated shops-in-stores for Kate Spade and Coach. The second-level men’s store will be overhauled and new designers added, as will the third-floor women’s fashion floor. The fourth level, devoted primarily to homewares, will see natural light from ample windows once renovations are complete. Hudson’s Bay is addressing competition from retailers at adjacent Rideau Centre, which itself is seeing unprecedented changes. Nordstrom opened its 153,700 square foot Rideau Centre location in March, featuring bright, modern interiors and some brands also carried at Hudson’s Bay. Menswear retailer Harry Rosen‘s Rideau Centre unit was replaced with a 17,000 square foot store in the fall of 2014. Featuring stunning interiors, the Rideau Centre Rosen’s also features a shoe department with its own mall entrance. Quebec-based retailer La Maison Simons will open a 100,000 square foot Rideau Centre store in August of 2016 with bright, modern interiors as well as an art installation. 

Hudson’s Bay’s Calgary Southcentre location will see substantial renovations and according to sources in Calgary, preparation is well underway. The 164,500 square foot Bay’s interiors were in need of an update, lagging behind updates at the company’s Chinook Centre, Market Mall and downtown Calgary locations. Southcentre will see several large new tenants over the next several years, including a 46,000 square foot Sporting Life in 2016, as well as possibly La Maison Simons’ second Calgary location. 

We spoke with retail industry expert Farla Efros, President of leading retail consulting firm HRC Advisory, to gain her perspective on Hudson’s Bay’s substantial investment. Ms. Efros explained that these store overhauls were a ‘long time coming’, and how Hudson’s Bay is renovating partly to address competition. Holt Renfrew and Harry Rosen are both updating and expanding stores nationwide, and Nordstrom’s Canadian expansion could see as many as 10 stores by the year 2020. Ms. Efros noted that Nordstrom’s Canadian stores are “clean, light, and refreshing”, putting pressure on Hudson’s Bay stores, which have become dated. She also noted that there will be crossover between shoppers at Nordstrom and Hudson’s Bay, requiring the latter to modernize to avoid potentially losing market share. 

Ms. Efros also described how Hudson’s Bay may have been ‘testing the waters’ with its gradual store renovations, and how things may speed up now that it has a clearer vision. Adding Saks Fifth Avenue to the mix would also require store renovations, as evidenced with the shared Saks/Bay space in downtown Toronto. Ms. Efros noted that the new concept will require very clear delineation between each banner so as to not cannibalize and confuse the customer, especially as there will be some brand overlap between Saks and Hudson’s Bay. 

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd.

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24 COMMENTS

  1. Has there been any word on when smaller locations will be renovated? A lot of their stores were built or renovated in the 90s and are definitely showing their age.

    • We’re aware of at least a couple of smaller (and less productive) locations which are scheduled for renovations. These stores are in malls which will also see substantial improvements.

  2. Hillcrest location info is not correct. There is no longer two stores and the expansion was added on in order to join both stores into one.

  3. Over here in regina sk, they appear to be renovating the one in the Cornwall center, they already replaced the sign but I don’t know what’s else is gonna happen, do you know anything about it?

    • Signage is sometimes replaced without interior renovations, from what we’ve seen with other stores. Hopefully Cornwall Centre sees renovations, though we’re not aware of any immediate plans.

  4. I really wish they’d invest in Winnipeg downtown. It’s an incredible spot and it’s in an awful state. Winnipeg retail really is about ‘building it and they will come’ and I feel this Bay is a missed opportunity – people travel far for something special and unique. It could also be about city centre-building, which would mean a lot to Winnipeg. Here’s hoping.

    • We were told that the ground floor may see a few more improvements to its ceilings and cosmetics vendors. As well, a new designer handbag shop-in-store may open, and British fashion brand Reiss will likely open in-store concessions. The 3rd and 4th floors will see natural light and new interiors. ‘The Room’ on 2 will remain for now, and we’ve been asked to not comment on its profitability (or lack thereof) until management makes some further decisions. A significant amount of retail space in the sub-basement continues to be for lease (Below TopShop, and beside it in the basement) as far as we’re aware. Longer-term, women’s shoes may move as the company looks to increase the building’s overall profitability.

  5. Any rumours on Halifax? I heard that Sears could potentially close at Halifax Shopping Centre and Hudson’s Bay may make a return to Halifax. Halifax Shopping Centre is under-going renovations to be more upscale, the new Hudson’s Bay would be a perfect fit.

    • We’re not aware of that, but it would be an interesting move. With Mills having shuttered its Halifax store after 96 years, Hudson’s Bay would have limited competition in the Halifax market.

  6. Have you looked into the big project in Burnaby, B.C. Brentwood Town Centre? there is a lot of rumors and talk around of a store there replacing the Sears which will likely close.

  7. Do we know what Hudson’s Bay will be doing with their horrible Yonge & Bloor store. That store is outdated and a disgrace considering it is right at the start of Mink Mile.

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