Canada Continues to Attract International Retailers

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Canada continues to be one of the world’s top markets for international brands seeking to open freestanding stores. A substantial number of retailers opened their first stores in Canada last year, and the trend will continue into 2017 and beyond. 

In the most recent edition of Retail Council of Canada’s Canadian Retailer magazine, 21 international brands were identified as having opened their first freestanding stores in Canada in 2016. The diverse list of retailers include large format stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, boutiques such as Ladurée and Christian Louboutin, and even eyewear retailers such as Warby Parker. The entire article and list can be viewed here, and it was compiled by Retail Insider’s Craig Patterson, who is now also writing selected articles in Canadian Retailer. 

All first-to-market openings last year were in Canada’s three largest metropolitan regions (Toronto/ Montreal/ Vancouver). Of the 21 international brands identified as having opened their first freestanding stores in Canada last year, 12 were in the Greater Toronto Area, five were in the Vancouver area, and four were in Montreal. 

As well, CBRE has just released its 10th annual study (PDF download) of international retail expansion, ranking Toronto as North America’s top city for international brands entering the market. CBRE’s study says that it identified 30 new international retailers that opened stores in Toronto last year — coffee shops and restaurants were included in the study. Toronto was the only city in North America to make the study’s top 10 list and according to CBRE, 43% of the retailers that entered the city were from the United States. The study surveyed 166 cities across 51 countries to determine how many international retailers had debuted in their markets in 2016.

In the CBRE study, only eight global cities saw more new international entrants than Toronto. These can be viewed in the graphics below. 

The CBRE study also noted that “with a multicultural and affluent population, Toronto often welcomes some of the newest brands in the Americas and continues to be a popular city for the expansion of Luxury brands,” while also noting how “Toronto has consistently been a popular first destination for U.S. brands’ international expansion due to the similarities in culture and consumer preferences.”

Despite recent reports that some retailers are struggling in Canada, there’s no end in sight for international brands entering Canada with new stores. We have a list of new retailers confirmed to be opening their first stores in Canada in 2017, which is longer than our published 2016 list (we’ll reveal more in the coming months). What’s evident is that Toronto will continue to be the country’s leader for international brands opening their first stores in Canada, and that Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre will be a launch point for a considerable number of them. 

Another interesting phenomenon is when brands open freestanding stores, as has been the case in Canada as of late. Notable brands opening freestanding stores include Canada Goose, Urban Decay, Strellson (our article on Strellson in Canadian Retailer), among others. It will be a topic of discussion at this year’s Retail Council of Canada STORE Conference, taking place next week (May 30 and 31) in Toronto. Retail Insider’s Craig Patterson will be hosting ’The Merchant’s Roundtable’ on the topic of brands opening stores on Tuesday, May 30 at 10:50 am. Panelists will include representatives from Hallmark, HUBBA and luxury watch brand Breitling — the latter recently announced that it would be opening its first Canadian boutique this summer at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre. 

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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