Study Ranks Canada’s Top Retail Streets

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A study released this month by Cushman & Wakefield ranks global retail streets based on rents per square foot, with seven Canadian locations included. What’s interesting is according to the Cushman report, five of the seven Canadian high streets saw decreases between June of 2016 and June of 2017. 

The report, called Main Streets Across the World 2017, tracks 451 of the top retail streets around the globe, ranking the most expensive in each country by their prime rental value. Cities in Canada to rank in the study include Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Edmonton and Calgary. 

Toronto’s Bloor Street West, aka ‘The Mink Mile’, came out on top again this year with a prime rental value of $300 per square foot. That’s down from $325 in 2016, according to the report. Things will no doubt be changing for Bloor Street West between now and the year 2020 — the street will see more new retailers and redevelopment than any similar street on the continent.

Hermes prepares to open a flagship at 100 Bloor Street West on November 22, 2017. Photo Retail Insider

New retailers to open on the street include Canada’s first locations for APM Monaco and MCM, and a massive new Hermes flagship is set to open next week at 100 Bloor Street West. Holt Renfrew and Harry Rosen are renovating their existing stores, and new developments to the area include retail at 1 Bloor Street East (including Nordstrom Rack and a Mark McEwan grocery store), 1 Bloor Street West (which reportedly could feature Apple as an anchor), and the redevelopment of the commercial podium of Manulife Centre, which will include the addition of a 50,000 square foot Eataly location in 2019. Retail Insider will be doing an in-depth feature on Bloor Street West next month. 

Vancouver’s Robson Street ranked second in the study, with rents asking $183 per square foot. That’s down from $215 in 2016 — the street is in a state of transition, and there are currently some vacancies on the 1000 and 1100 blocks. Things are looking up for Robson Street — on December 2, Japanese retailer MUJI will open its largest store outside of Asia on Robson Street, and we’re told that several exciting announcements are on the way for the street. Interestingly, once sleepy Alberni Street, located a block north, has become the city’s luxury retail address, and rents reflect that. According to a recent report by CBRE, Alberni Street’s rents are now up to 50% higher than those on Robson Street, and Alberni Street’s retail sales are often higher than those on Toronto’s prestigious Bloor Street West. 

Vancouver’s Robson Street. Photo Ritchie Po

Montreal’s Sainte-Catherine Street West came in at a close third, with rents of $175 per square foot — down from $180 in 2016. The street is seeing the addition of popular new retailers, and is about to embark on a multi-year infrastructure project that will include new heated sidewalks, among other improvements. Sainte-Catherine Street will continue to go more upscale at its east and west ends between now and 2020. On the west side at 1307 Sainte-Catherine Street West, an expanded 250,000 square foot ‘Holt Renfrew Ogilvy’ store will include ground-floor boutiques for luxury brands such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Prada. Towards the east end of the retail strip at Philips Square will be a 200,000 square foot Saks Fifth Avenue flagship, which will be located at the back end of the city’s flagship Hudson’s Bay department store. The opening date for Saks is currently unknown — it was announced to be opening in early 2018, but we’re told there are some delays. 

Montreal’s ste-catherine St. W. is going to be seeing some big changes over the next few years, including new streetscape and heated sidewalks

Toronto’s Queen Street West ranked fourth in the study with retail rents at $110 per square foot — unchanged from 2016. Queen Street West between University Avenue and Spadina might be compared to Vancouver’s Robson Street — both feature popular chain national and international tenants, as well as a mixture of some local retailers. Queen Street West is seeing some new developments including a new MEC flagship that will open in late 2018 — and while there are some vacancies on the strip, these are expected to be filled with new retailers in due course. 

Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue, which technically is 82 Avenue NW, ranked fifth with rents of $48 per square foot. That’s down from $50 per square foot, according to the study. Whyte Avenue remains Edmonton’s most popular retail high street, with many local and some national and international tenants. Given its chilly climate, Edmonton is an overwhelmingly mall-dominated market so asking rents on streets are considerably less than those in top malls such as Southgate Centre and West Edmonton Mall

Whyte Avenue in Edmonton. Photo University of Alberta

Sussex Drive and Wellington Street in Ottawa ranked sixth with rents of $45 per square foot, up from $40 in 2016. The stretch of Sussex drive just north of Rideau Street boasts a lovely collection of boutiques in an attractive setting — Le Creuset operates next to fashion retailers Kaliyana and ca va de soi in a row of heritage buildings. Busy CF Rideau Centre is nearby, and it features national and international retailers such as Nordstrom, La Maison Simons, Tiffany & Co., Harry Rosen and others. 

Calgary’s 17 Avenue SW. ranked seventh with rents of $43 per square foot per year, down from $50 in 2016. The commercial street includes a mix of local, national and international retailers, in a rather pleasant environment that is anchored by First Capital Realty’s ‘Mount Royal Village’ multi-use commercial project. Calgary is a city overwhelmingly dominated by malls — CF Chinook Centre and CF Market Mall are top performers in Canada, and even downtown Calgary is dominated by a large indoor retail complex called The CORE, anchored by Holt Renfrew, La Maison Simons, Harry Rosen and Hudson’s Bay

Rendering of Mount Royal Village in Calgary, via First Capital Realty

New York City’s 5th Avenue (between 49th Street and 60th Street) boasts the highest retail rents in the world, topping out at US $3,000 per square foot. That number was unchanged from the year prior. Other leading streets in the United States include Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills (US $875), Union Square in San Francisco (US $700), North Michigan Avenue in Chicago (US $550) and Lincoln Road in Miami (US $300). Toronto’s Bloor Street West, as a comparison in the study, ranked at US $231 — making it appear to be a bargain in comparison. 

Other top international streets, all in US dollars, included Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay ($2,725), London’s New Bond Street ($1,719), Milan’s Via Montenapoleone ($1,433), Paris’ Champs Elysees ($1,407), Ginza in Tokyo ($1,200) and Pitt Street Mall in Sydney Australia ($1,000). 

[Read the Full Report]

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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  1. Why did retail rents per square foot decline on many of Canada’s main shopping streets? Is this a sign that suburban mall expansion in recent years is taking some of the luster from our once mighty downtown retail streets? Making us more like American cities?

    Interesting that 8th Avenue in Calgary did not make the list as one of the top streets. Only a few years ago it did. But like Toronto, Calgary is seeing almost all new big destination retail locate in a suburban mall (Chinook Mall in Calgary, Yorkdale in Toronto). This has really killed downtown Calgary retail, and when I was there, downtown Calgary was quiet, while Chinook Mall was packed. So the numbers bare this out with 8th Avenue not even on the list anymore.

    I know in Bloor Street’s case, it is not so much a shock to see rents decline. Bloor Street and Yorkville in general seem to be losing out big to Yorkdale Mall, which is getting most of the new luxury stores in the Toronto market.

    • Is this a sign that suburban mall expansion in recent years is taking some of the luster from our once mighty downtown retail streets? Making us more like American cities?

      Malls in America are declining. Many are ghost towns.

      Any more expert analysis?

      • There’s no doubt a combination of factors — some retailers are also complaining that some landlords had been asking too much in terms of rents for certain spaces. That’s very case-by-case however.


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