Popular Japanese fashion retailer Uniqlo will enter the Quebec market in late 2020 when it opens a flagship store at the Montreal Eaton Centre on Ste-Catherine Street West in downtown Montreal. The store is expected to be the first of several in the province as Uniqlo expands outside of its initial entry markets of Toronto and Vancouver. Uniqlo has said that it could eventually open as many as 100 stores across Canada.
The Montreal Uniqlo flagship will occupy the northwest corner of Ste-Catherine Street West and Boulevard Robert-Bourassa in the soon-to-be-completed overhauled Montreal Eaton Centre. The multi-level Uniqlo space will carry the brand’s range of fashions for men, women, and kids, as well as an assortment of Uniqlo’s popular limited-edition brand-collaboration t-shirts.
Uniqlo ‘ultra light down puffer jackets’ are wildly popular worldwide, as is the brand’s cashmere offerings and the ‘HEATTECH’ line which features a technological innovation involving inner wear that generates heat from one’s own body temperature (Uniqlo refers to its fashions as ‘LifeWear’). Uniqlo also regularly releases limited-edition t-shirts which often sellout quickly.
Landlord Ivanhoe Cambridge is merging the adjacent Complexe Les Ailes and Montreal Eaton Centre into one large downtown centre that will also be anchored by French sport retail behemoth Decathlon, as well as a Time Out market food hall that will open next month.
Claude Sirois, President of Ivanhoé Cambridge Retail, said in a statement, “The upcoming openings of Time Out Market Montréal, Decathlon and Uniqlo are a testament to the major transformation that the Centre Eaton de Montréal is undergoing as a result of our $200 million investment. The centre’s shopping experience will be completely reinvented and will contribute to the renewal of downtown Montreal.’’
Uniqlo is expected to be a success in the Montreal market. Many of Uniqlo’s designs are basic and at a reasonable price-point, including a range of tailored styles that are expected to resonate with local consumers. At the same time, Uniqlo will compete with the likes of Zara and other value-priced fashion retailers, as well as homegrown brands seeking to maintain market share.
The Montreal area is Uniqlo’s fourth major market to see Canadian stores. Uniqlo opened its first Alberta storefront on September 27 at West Edmonton Mall.
When Uniqlo entered the Canadian market, it initially focused on the Toronto and Vancouver regions to create brand awareness with a clustering of stores.
Uniqlo currently operates 13 stores in Canada. Seven (and soon eight) of those in the Greater Toronto Area and four are in the Vancouver suburbs.
Uniqlo entered the Canadian market with two stores in Toronto in the fall of 2016. In September of 2016, Uniqlo opened its first Canadian flagship, spanning 33,400 square feet, at CF Toronto Eaton Centre. The store has since added another 4,500 square feet to house a first-to-Canada ‘UT’ t-shirt space. A 30,000+ square foot Yorkdale Shopping Centre Uniqlo store subsequently opened in October of 2016, in the mall’s Nordstrom-anchored expansion wing.
Uniqlo’s first store in the BC Lower Mainland opened in October of 2017 at Metropolis at Metrotown in Burnaby, in a 20,630 two-level space. That was followed by the opening of a 17,900 square foot location at Guildford Town Centre in Surrey in March of 2018, and then with an 11,570 square foot store at CF Richmond Centre in suburban Vancouver. Uniqlo also operates a store at Coquitlam Centre which opened in September of 2018.
March of this year, Uniqlo opened a 12,000 square foot store at Oshawa Centre east of Toronto, which was followed by the April opening of a 15,000 square foot location at Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket, north of Toronto.
On Wednesday of this week, Uniqlo will open a unique location in Toronto’s Financial District. The 8,157 square foot storefront will operate until December of 2020 and will see a monthly rotation of Uniqlo’s ‘LifeWear’ line.
Uniqlo has been advertising employment positions in Montreal for the past several months, which gave rise to speculation that the store would be opening in the city. Job postings indicated a new store was on the way, and sources in the know said that they were aware of a flagship deal that had recently been completed as of the summer.
Uniqlo is ramping up its recruitment efforts ahead of the late 2020 store opening. Those interested in working for Uniqlo in Montreal can learn more here.
Jeff Berkowitz of Aurora Realty Consultants represents Uniqlo as broker in Canada, and has negotiated all Canadian store locations on behalf of the retailer, including the new downtown Montreal flagship.
In September of 2016, Uniqlo Founder and CEO Tadashi Yanai told Marina Strauss of the Globe & Mail that Uniqlo could eventually operate as many as 100 stores in Canada.
Given the recent announcement that Forever 21 will be shuttering all of its Canadian stores, Uniqlo has an opportunity to occupy multiple units. Both retailers operate stores of a similar size, and Mr. Berkowitz has been a broker for both retailers.
Uniqlo is expected to open more stores in the metropolitan Montreal area as well as larger markets such as Quebec City at some point. Uniqlo’s choice of real estate thus far has been in busy shopping centres. Using that as a reference point, one might expect to see Uniqlo eventually announce stores at centres such as CF Carrefour Laval, Quartier DIX30, CF Fairview Pte-Claire and eventually at the new Royalmount mega project that will include about 1.4 million square feet of retail space at the centre of the island of Montreal. In Quebec City, Uniqlo would be likely to target shopping centres such as Galeries de la Capitale and Place Ste-Foy, though nothing is confirmed at this time.
*Thank you Maxime Frechette for connecting Retail Insider with Uniqlo and Ivanhoé Cambridge for this story.