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Williams Sonoma to Exit Quebec Amid Multiple Store Closures in Canada 

San Francisco-based kitchenware and home furnishings retailer Williams Sonoma has announced that it will close both of its stores in suburban Montreal. The Williams Sonoma store in Vancouver is also closing at the end of the year, according to sources.

This follows the closing of an Edmonton store several months ago. The company’s sister brand Pottery Barn will also close its Edmonton location next month as the retailer shrinks its Canadian footprint. 

On Williams Sonoma’s social media over the weekend, the company announced that it would be closing its stores at CF Carrefour Laval near Montreal, as well as its store at Quartier DIX 30 in Brossard. Comments on Instagram posts indicated dismay with questions as to why both units were shuttering. 

Both stores will close in January according to Maxime Frechette, who brought the store closures to our attention on Saturday.

Williams Sonoma entered the Quebec market in November of 2012 when it opened the CF Carrefour Laval unit. The store’s current 6,400 square foot storefront occupies a prominent location in the mall across from a La Maison Simons store. The Quartier DIX30 Williams Sonoma store, which spans just over 6,500 square feet, is located near the centre’s Sporting Life store and is next to sister brand Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn Kids, which will remain open for the time-being. 

A post this month on Reddit, above, indicates that Williams Sonoma’s Vancouver store will also be closing at the end of this year. Retail Insider wasn’t able to confirm these details as of Sunday evening when provided the information, though the post is specific. “Asked one of the associates and she confirmed that they’ll be closing after Christmas,” the post says.

The closure of the Vancouver store is more than likely given the fact that JLL has listed the 4,412 square foot retail space at 2903 Granville Street for lease. The stretch of Granville Street has seen multiple vacancies which some retailers have attributed to high taxes and rents, as well as changing shopping patterns.

The Pottery Barn store at West Edmonton Mall is also scheduled to close at the end of the year. It follows the closing of the Williams Sonoma store at West Edmonton Mall in the spring — Williams Sonoma opened at West Edmonton Mall in September of 2012 to much enthusiasm. The West Edmonton Mall Pottery Barn store spans 14,200 square feet over two levels, including a 9,130 square foot main floor — the store is located next to the mall’s recently opened Uniqlo store. The 7,000 square foot Williams Sonoma space at West Edmonton Mall is now occupied by a Browns Shoes location.

WILLIAMS-SONOMA QUARTIER DIX 30. PHOTO: GOOGLE MAPS

While some are questioning the future of Williams Sonoma in Canada, a companies earning call over the summer indicated that business is good here. Laura J. Alber, President and CEO of Williams Sonoma, said, “Our total international business continued to show strength. We see a lot of strength in Canada actually.” The Australian operations are a different story however. “Our Australia business is probably the weakest honestly, but there we’re able to continue to reduce costs as we change our operating model there, so that is a good thing too. And we are in general very optimistic about our ability to really grow in these international markets and do it profitably.”

Despite her comments, Williams Sonoma will operate only four stores in Canada by early 2020 after several store closures in recent memory.

One of the most high profile Williams Sonoma store closures came in early 2017 when the retailer shuttered its Canadian flagship store at 100 Bloor Street West in Toronto. The adjacent Pottery Barn store in the same building subsequently closed as well. French luxury brand Hermès replaced Williams Sonoma when it opened a flagship in November of 2017. A Zegna flagship opened next to Hermès in December of 2018. The space formerly occupied by Pottery Barn on Bloor Street remains vacant and is listed for lease by CBRE

Williams Sonoma entered the Canadian market in October of 2001 when it opened a store at CF Toronto Eaton Centre. A store at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre followed in November of that year — in 2016, the Yorkdale store relocated to the Nordstrom-anchored expansion wing after luxury conglomerate Richemont Group leased the Williams Sonoma space for four of its brands (Piaget, Panerai, IWC, Vacheron Constantin). The Bloor Street flagship opened in the spring of 2002 and was considered to be the Canadian flagship. 

WILLIAMS-SONOMA QUARTIER DIX 30. PHOTO: GOOGLE MAPS

In an interview with the Globe & Mail in 2001, Williams Sonoma said that it planned to open as many as 40 Canadian stores over five years, located in all 10 of Canada’s major cities. The company subsequently expanded to open units in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. 

Oddly, the Williams Sonoma website does not include the CF Chinook Centre location in Calgary. On a phone call with the store on Sunday November 17, an employee explained that the company had neglected to add the Calgary store to the Williams Sonoma Canadian website, and that the store was remaining open as far as they were aware.

Williams Sonoma continues to operate stores in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. The soon-to-close Vancouver Williams Sonoma store is located at 2903 Granville Street in a well-heeled retail area that has recently seen several retailers and restaurants shutter. Three Toronto stores include CF Toronto Eaton Centre, Yorkdale Shopping Centre and CF Sherway Gardens. 

Pottery Barn operates stores in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto, with a sole Quebec location being located next to Williams Sonoma at Quartier DIX30. The Vancouver Pottery Barn store is located three blocks from Williams Sonoma at 2600 Granville Street and there are questions about its future as well, according to sources not wishing to speak on the record for this article. The Calgary store is located at CF Chinook Centre, and two Toronto Pottery Barn stores are housed at CF Sherway Gardens and at the Yorkdale Shopping Centre. 

Sister brand West Elm operates stores in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. One of the Toronto stores relocated in February of 2018 and was featured with photos in Retail Insider

Williams Sonoma and its two other brands face steep competition in Canada as other homewares retailers seek to gain market share. At the same time, Canadians are known to be frugal and some of Williams Sonoma’s pricing could be classified as being in the premium category. TJX-owned HomeSense, which sells off-price home goods, has been expanding rapidly across Canada along with Winners and Marshalls banners. The HomeSense expansion has been made possible in part to the demise of Target and Sears in Canada, which resulted in available retail space for new large format retailers to expand. 

Various other retail chains are also competing with Williams Sonoma’s banners in Canada. Bed Bath & Beyond, also offering reasonably priced goods, has expanded across Canada though it too is said to be struggling. Large format Crate & Barrel operates nine stores in Canada in the same markets as Williams Sonoma. That includes stores in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal. 

Other retailers seeking market share include Toronto-based Kitchen Stuff Plus, which has found success offering value-priced kitchenware that has seen stores open throughout the region. Retailers such as Stokes have been expanding by opening new stores in Canada, while large format retailers such as Linen Chest and Canadian Tire have expanded their kitchen and home offerings. Home furnishings behemoth Ikea continues to expand its Canadian operations by opening new stores, and recently announced plans to open at least one store in downtown Toronto. There are plenty of other examples, including Chinese variety retailer Miniso which carries kitchen products at low prices.

WILLIAMS-SONOMA QUARTIER DIX 30. PHOTO: GOOGLE MAPS

Not to mention, e-commerce continues to grow in Canada as many consumers choose to shop online. Some are international — US-based retailer Wayfair operates a Canadian shopping website, for example.

It remains to be seen what the future of Williams Sonoma will be in Canada. Some landlords have said that some Canadian shopping centres stores have not been meeting sales projections. Some shopping centres have seen a reduction in foot traffic amid a shift in the Canadian retail industry.

Increased cost of living, a shift of spending to technology and mobile devices, and the shift towards seeking out ‘experiences’ has seen increased spending in restaurants, which leave kitchenware stores in a bind in some markets. Brands themselves have also been opening standalone stores in Canada, including Le Creuset and Zwilling which have both opened a network of locations over the past several years. Both also operate Canadian e-commerce sites.

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Pottery Barn in Vancouver would do better elsewhere like inside a mall, maybe Brentwood or Oakridge if the timing were better. Parking is a huge deterrent to going there to the location on South Granville, there are never any customers inside the last few times I have been, compared to how busy there stores are in the mall locations I have been to in the States its pretty dead here.

  2. I was speaking with the manager of the Vancouver Williams-Sonoma location recently. He told me that Williams-Sonoma has no plans to exit the Vancouver market. They are currently searching for a replacement location. The reason why they are closing this location is due to a substantial increase in rent. They couldn’t justify staying as they’ve been wanting to relocate anyways. Because they haven’t found that replacement location and didn’t want to commit to a lease, they are closing this location for now. The manager said they are eyeing some retail developments (Oakridge, Brentwood) as options. He also said that the company prefers to have all of their brands close together (Pottery Barn, PB Kids) as it saves on shipping and other things.

  3. I can say that the Canadian stores had terrible management and no input or direction from the US head office. Along with a refusal to comply to Quebec language laws.

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