By Craig Patterson
Nordstrom’s off-price division Nordstrom Rack opens its Canadian flagship this morning at 1 Bloor Street East in Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville area. The impressive store features a glass facade that supplies ample natural light, and is stocked with an expansive offering of luxury brands. We toured and took photos prior to the store’s public opening.
The new store spans two floors at the base of the 1 Bloor Street East retail podium, with almost 9,000 square feet at street-level as well as an additional 30,000 square feet upstairs. The retail podium at the south-east corner of Yonge Street and Bloor Streets was acquired by First Capital Realty from developer Great Gulf in the summer of 2016, and is located below a nearly completed condominium tower that soars 76-stories above.
Nordstrom Rack’s street-level is dedicated primarily to accessories and home goods, while the second level houses fashion and footwear. On the main floor, a corner entrance leads to a display of luxury-branded handbags and small accessories that includes some of the world’s top brands such as Chloé, Stella McCartney, Kenzo, Proenza Schouler and Balenciaga — it’s an assortment not found in most suburban Nordstrom Rack stores in Canada, or the United States. A sunglasses department features hundreds of pairs of designer frames, and there’s also areas for fragrances and beauty, home goods and luggage — Nordstrom notes that residents in the area tend to travel, so offerings are extensive.
The second floor features men’s and women’s fashions, as well as a large footwear department that spans the entire south end of the floor. Thousands of pairs of shoes are available for men and women and similar to downstairs, some of the world’s leading luxury brands can be found at substantial savings. Women’s ready-to-wear labels include the likes of Saint Laurent, Valentino, St. John, and others — product has been brought in from Nordstrom’s full-line Canadian stores, which include designer ‘Collectors’ departments that boast some of the worlds most popular and pricey labels. The footwear offerings are extensive and some of the deals are eye-popping — a Lanvin boot regularly priced at $2,185 was marked down to about $225, as an example.
Merchandise is a mix of product from full-line Nordstrom stores (about 30% in Canadian Nordstrom Racks vs. about 15% in its US locations), as well as some items specifically purchased from top brands sold at Nordstrom.
Nordstrom Rack has attempted to make the shopping process simpler by grouping some areas so that consumers can find products — departments for denim and career wear, for example, are clearly marked. The store also features spacious dressing rooms with enhanced lighting both from within the room as well as from above. Nordstrom is also introducing mobile checkout to further expedite the purchase process — one complaint about off-price retailers is that “the hunt” can also be time consuming, and Nordstrom is attempting to help consumers save time.
The overall experience feels a bit different from that of a typical suburban Nordstrom Rack store. The Bloor Street flagship is flooded with natural light and its windows look out to the bustling cityscape that is undergoing a transformation. Directly across Yonge Street is the construction site for ‘The ONE’, which will be an 85-storey tower spanning over 1000 feet into the air, with multi-level retail that will include a large corner anchor. On the northwest corner, landlord Kingsett Capital will upgrade the retail podium below the 2 Bloor Street West office tower, and further westward there’s construction at Manulife Centre (which is being overhauled and adding Eataly) and the Holt Renfrew Centre will see a new Aritzia flagship, as well as a remodelled Holt Renfrew store. (We will be publishing a comprehensive Bloor Street update later this month).
Directly south of Nordstrom Rack in the same retail podium will be the entrance to a grocery store operated by celebrity chef Mark McEwan. The grocery entrance will be on the main floor with about 870 square feet of space, with a further 17,230 square feet located on the basement level directly below Nordstrom Rack. Other retail spaces are available for lease (First Capital Realty’s Eric Sherman is handling the leasing, according to signage).
The area is very busy and this could become one of Nordstrom Rack’s top-selling stores. About 100,000 pedestrians walk past the site daily, and the store is located directly above Canada’s busiest subway station with more than 400,000 daily riders. About 65,000 cars also pass by daily. The surrounding area is also highly educated and relatively affluent — Yorkville and nearby Rosedale house millionaires and even some billionaires, and the University of Toronto is located a few blocks to the west. Toronto’s busy Gay Village is located adjacent both south and eastward, and the overall population in the area is exploding as thousands of new condominium units are completed and occupied — the area is in a state of transition that will be incredible once completed (though one questions if it ever will be completed, given Toronto’s appetite for development).
Nordstrom has said that it plans to open between 12 and 15 Nordstrom Rack stores in Canada, and the company has already revealed where six of these will be located. Nordstrom Rack’s first Canadian store opened in suburban Toronto at Vaughan Mills in March of this year, measuring 35,315 square feet over one level. The retailer’s second Canadian store opened last week at Deerfoot Meadows in Calgary, in a 30,600 square foot box. Nordstrom has also confirmed that it will be opening three Canadian locations in the fall of 2018, with dates to be revealed closer to their opening. These will include locations at The Ottawa Train Yards in Ottawa, at South Edmonton Common in Edmonton, and at Heartland Town Centre in Mississauga. All three locations will be approximately 35,000 square feet, according to Nordstrom.
Nordstrom has had a presence in Canada since 2014 when it opened its first Canadian store at Calgary’s CF Chinook Centre in September of that year, followed by locations at Ottawa’s CF Rideau Centrein March of 2015, at CF Pacific Centre in Vancouver in September of 2015, and two Toronto stores in the fall of 2016 — at CF Toronto Eaton Centre, and at Yorkdale Shopping Centre.
Brokerage Northwest Atlantic represents Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack in Canada, and has negotiated Nordstrom’s lease deals in Canada.
*Photos by Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson, now based in Toronto, is the founder and Editor-in-Chief Retail Insider. He’s also a retail and real estate consultant, retail tour guide and public speaker.