Canada’s Growing Affluence Supports Expanding Luxury Retail

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Property consultancy Knight Frank’s ‘The Wealth Report 2017’ provides evidence of growing affluence in Canada, which may support the notion that there’s more room for luxury retail in Canada. This country is outpacing the United States in terms of overall wealth growth among those with net assets surpassing US $30 million, as it has been for a number of years. 

The report addresses overall growth among various groups, including ‘High Net Worth Individuals’ (HNWI) with net assets in excess of US $1 million, as well as ‘Ultra High Net Worth Individuals’ (UHNWI) with net assets exceeding US $30 million. 

Canada is home to a rapidly increasing population of affluent residents, with growth numbers surpassing that of the United States. A total of 335,800 Canadian residents had net assets surpassing US $1 million in 2016, which is expected to grow to 503,700 by the year 2026. Those in the UHNWI category (net assets surpassing US $30 million) stood at 4,110 in 2016, with a forecasted 50% increase to 6,170 UHNWI’s by 2026. In 2016, Canada had 483 individuals with net assets surpassing US $100 million, forecasted to grow to 725 by 2026. Last year as well, Canada had 40 billionaires (in US dollars), which is forecasted to grow to 60 billionaires by 2026. 

Between 2015 and 2016, alone, Canada saw a 15% increase in UHNWI — a significant number, which may partly explain the rapid increase of luxury brands entering and opening stores in Canada. Canada also saw a 50% increase in UHNWI between 2006 and 2016, which may be explained both by asset growth as well as immigration. 

The United States, for comparison, saw 30% growth in UHNWI’s between 2006 and 2016, with 5% of that between 2015 and 2016. The Knight Frank study estimates that the United States will see a 30% increase in UHNWI between 2016 and 2026 — trailing Canada in terms of percentages. 

The same study examines the affluence of Toronto and Vancouver, and may provide insight into why both cities are leaders for Canadian luxury retail expansion. Toronto is particularly wealthy, rivalling and in some instances surpassing that of some of the world’s largest cities. In 2016, Toronto had an estimated 109,300 individuals with net assets surpassing US $1 million, 3,910 individuals with net assets surpassing US $10 million, and an estimated 1,500 UHNWI’s with net assets surpassing US $30 million. Toronto is forecasted to have 2,250 UHNWI by the year 2026 — a 50% increase. Between 2015 and 2016, Toronto saw a 15% increase in UHNWI’s. 


Vancouver boasts a considerable number of wealthy individuals as well. Knight Frank estimates that there are 31,100 individuals with net assets surpassing US $1 million, about 1,110 individuals with assets surpassing US $10 million, and 430 UHNWI’s with net assets surpassing US $30 million. In 2026, the study estimates Vancouver will have 731 UHNWI’s — a 70% increase over 2016. Vancouver also saw a remarkable 23% increase in UHNWI’s between 2015 and 2016, though it’s unclear what effect a recent 15% residential foreign buyer tax and ‘Empty Home Tax‘ may have on future numbers. 

Interestingly, Toronto appears to have more ultra-wealthy people than Paris, France. Knight Frank estimates there are 110,900 individuals with net assets of over US $1 million, with 1,320 of those being in the US $30 million+ UHNWI category. The study also forecasts a 10% reduction in UHNWI’s between 2016 and 2026, after seeing a 12% reduction between 2015 and 2016. Paris is likely to always have luxury retail, however, given that it is the headquarters for a considerable number of luxury brands, not to mention one of the world’s top shopping destinations for international tourists. 


Toronto and Vancouver still trail behind New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles in terms of wealth, however, according to the study. Both Canadian cities also trail behind much smaller cities in Switzerland — Zurich and Geneva — which both have a surprisingly high number of very wealthy individuals.

Local affluence is only one component of what luxury brands look for when determining where to open stores. Spending patterns, demographics, mobility, incomes, and tourism also play significant roles. As tourism numbers are forecasted to increase in Canada, particularly among high-spending Chinese tourists, Vancouver and Toronto stand to gain. The US Trump administration’s recent border-related entrance denials/detainments could also further enhance Canada’s tourism, as international visitors may see Canada as a friendlier and more accessible destination — and our low dollar only makes us more attractive to high-end shoppers. 

In the coming weeks we’ll be touring Canada’s ‘luxury retail nodes’, and we’ll report on each of these in separate articles. We’ll discuss both freestanding luxury brand boutiques, as well as concessions operating within larger host retailers. About 18 months ago we coordinated a study on behalf of a Canadian consultancy, where we ranked Canada’s ‘luxury nodes’ in terms of number of brands with stores. We’ll update and expand on that here on Retail Insider, as there have been a number of new ‘luxury nodes’ added — including CF Toronto Eaton Centre, which now houses Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, and Links of London as new luxury destinations. Other areas of discussion will include Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville and Yorkdale Shopping Centre, Vancouver’s Alberni Street ‘Luxury Zone’, Montreal’s Rue de la Montagne/Sherbrooke Street West, and a handful of other streets and malls in major centres.

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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