BRIEF: Forever 21 Closes Canadian Stores, CHANEL Opens 1st-in-Canada Shoe Boutique

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Forever 21 Closes All Canadian Stores: Los-Angeles based retailer Forever 21 filed for bankruptcy protection in September and has since closed all 44 of its Canadian stores. The company’s first Canadian store opened in 2002 at West Edmonton Mall prior to expanding across the country to eventually occupy about 900,000 square feet of retail space in shopping malls. 

Already, some spaces formerly occupied by Forever 21 are spoken for, at least temporarily. At the CF Toronto Eaton Centre, signs on the windows indicate that Canadian retailer Urban Planet will be moving in — we’d heard from a source in September that Urban Planet would quickly expand its operations into former Forever 21 storefronts via short-term leases. 

It remains to be seen if Forever 21’s clearance sales had an effect on retail in Canada — stores were cleaned out and shuttered ahead of Black Friday. The reason it’s called ‘Black Friday’ is because many retailers don’t become profitable until the December consumer rush, so anything disrupting that could result in even more retailers filing for creditor protection. A source we spoke with last week says that we may see other retailer filings announced before the end of January 2020.


Holt Renfrew Vancouver Update: The 190,000 square foot Holt Renfrew flagship in downtown Vancouver is undergoing major changes as it continues to see strong sales as the top-selling Holt Renfrew store in the chain. New brands and boutiques are being added, and Retail Insider toured the store last week to report on the latest. 

That includes a new 1,000 square-foot Chanel women’s footwear boutique, which is the first of its kind in Canada. The boutique, located adjacent to the women’s shoe department on the third floor, features two rooms showcasing a wide range of Chanel footwear styles in a luxurious environment. Chanel is said to be the top-selling brand at Holts in Vancouver — before a luxury slowdown in Vancouver over the past few months, Chanel was said to be approaching $100 million in sales in the Vancouver store alone, which is incredible. 

Louis Vuitton, as well, is expanding its presence at Holt Renfrew in Vancouver. That will include an expansion of the Louis Vuitton men’s concession on the men’s floor which will include Louis Vuitton ready-to-wear, which will be a first for Holt Renfrew in Canada. A women’s Louis Vuitton ready-to-wear boutique is also set to open on the women’s designer floor which again will be a first-in-Canada for Vuitton. They will join a large LV accessory concession located in the street-level luxury hall — sales of bags and accessories at Louis Vuitton in Vancouver’s Holt Renfrew are said to be higher than that of the Vuitton “maison” flagship store at the nearby Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. 

The men’s shoe department at Holts Vancouver has also relocated to a new space on the men’s floor, which is seeing significant changes. The former shoe department, which was flooded by natural light from windows facing Howe Street, is being repurposed for two luxury brand boutiques. That includes a recently opened Christian Dior men’s boutique that features the brand’s ready-to-wear as well as bags and accessories, as well as a large Tom Ford boutique that will open in early 2020. Other recent additions to the men’s floor include a Celine concession (first in Canada) and a Burberry men’s boutique featuring the brand’s most updated store design. They join Fendi, Givenchy, Prada, Moncler, Burberry and other major brand boutiques, as well as a men’s Christian Louboutin shoe concession that remained in its original spot despite the men’s shoe department relocating.


PR Maven Natasha Koifman’s ’ShopNK’ Launches Second Product ‘Drop’: The founder of leading PR firm NKPR has launched a second roster of brand collaborations as part of the ShopNK initiative — Retail Insider reported on the first inception of ShopNK in September of this year, which included limited edition collaborations for the “curated e-commerce platform with a conscience”. 

The ‘Drop002’ includes unique limited collaborations with entrepreneurs, designers and leaders who have disrupted the the retail, fashion, beauty, and entertainment industries. The latest collaborations include: 

ShopNK Collaborations. Photo: NKPR
  • Roots: a three-piece unisex capsule collection featuring an oversized pouch, leather shirt jacket and a reprise of the brand’s original backpack,

  • Jacquie Aiche: a black diamond capsule collection featuring an Onyx Double Point Necklace, Diamond Choker and Diamond Finger Bracelet,

  • Brunette the Label: a collection of black-on-black graphics that makes a dual statement about one’s hair colour and personality. Available with Blonde, Brunette, Red Head and Jet Black graphics.

  • LINE Knitwear: an embroidered capsule of knitwear, scarves & hoodies

  • WINK Cannabis: a high-holiday entertaining collection, and

  • Kip. Sleepwear: an exclusive black-on-black pajama set.

In keeping with the charitable component to ShopNK, a portion of the proceeds from every purchase goes directly to an established charity of the buyer’s choice of one of six local and international organizations that are significant to Ms. Koifman. She explained that it is an approach that “empowers the next generation to think philanthropically at the personal level and give more meaning to the things they surround themselves with”.


Hermès Begins Construction of New Montreal Store: French luxury brand Hermès is relocating its Montreal boutique from the soon-to-close Holt Renfrew store at 1300 Sherbrooke St. W. to the recently rebranded Holt Renfrew Ogilvy at 1307 Ste-Catherine St. W. that will be completed within months. The new Hermès boutique will span about 3,000 square feet and will include a broader range of products than that found in the smaller Holt Renfrew Hermès boutique, which featured street-frontage on the prestigious and attractive Sherbrooke Street. 

The new Hermès boutique will include frontage facing onto Ste-Catherine Street, marking a luxe shift on the street that will be further amplified when Louis Vuitton opens at Holt Renfrew Ogilvy in early 2020.

The area around Holt Renfrew Ogilvy is seeing significant changes. That includes a newly completed Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences, which includes 169 hotel rooms and 18 luxury condominium units worth in excess of $6-million each. New retailers in the area include Mackage and COS. Holt Renfrew Ogilvy itself is seeing an incredible transformation that includes expanding the Ogilvy flagship to about 250,000 square feet over five retail levels, creating a home for some of the world’s leading luxury brands. Much of the space is dedicated to leased concessions with many of those exceeding 1,000 square feet. Chanel recently unveiled an impressive 3,345 square foot bi-level boutique on the new main level luxury hall at Holt Renfrew Ogilvy. It joined other main floor luxury tenants including Tiffany & Co., David Yurman, Bottega Veneta, and Prada, with other big names to come including an expanded corner space for Louis Vuitton. 


On the fourth floor at Holt Renfrew Ogilvy, a 40,000 square foot men’s store includes concession boutique spaces for 25 brands — the most of any such store in Canada. On the concourse level of Holt Renfrew Ogilvy, a 25,000 square foot beauty hall is also impressive and spacious and will no doubt see increased foot traffic once conuctrustion of the building is completed in the spring of 2020. Holt Renfrew Ogilvy could become a high-end tourist attraction as well as being an anchor to the Ste-Catherine Street revival which includes a public realm overall and the addition of exciting new concepts such as Time Out Market and retailers such as Uniqlo

Hermès operates a flagship store at 100 Bloor Street West in Toronto as well as a recently opened flagship at 717 Burrard Street in Vancouver. Other Hermes boutiques in Canada include a standalone unit at Vancouver International Airport as well as a concession at Holt Renfrew in downtown Calgary. 


Kit and Ace Opens 1st Store After Acquisition: Vancouver-based fashion brand Kit and Ace opened a 900 square-foot storefront at Park Royal in West Vancouver on November 9th, 2019. It’s the ninth location for Kit and Ace, which also has stores at 165 Water Street in Vancouver, 2235 W. 4th Avenue in Vancouver, 102 Bloor Street West in Toronto, 779 Queen Street West in Toronto, 171 Lakeshore Road E. in Oakville, 800 16th Avenue S.W. in Calgary, and at CF Chinook Centre in Calgary. 

In October of 2018, Retail Insider reported that the Wilson family (Chip Wilson founded Lululemon) had sold Kit and Ace to George Tsogas, who had led Kit and Ace singe April of 2017. At the time of reporting, Kit and Ace announced that it was profitable for the first time since being founded in 2014 as a ‘technical cashmere’ brand. Kit and Ace has since pivoted its strategy to become a technical fabric-based brand that targets urban commuters (with a focus on bicycle commuters) with a range of fashion and accessories.

Retail Insider toured Park Royal last week, and the property is looking impressive. The centre also saw an incredible spike in productivity recently — over the 12 months ending in June, the centre’s sales per square foot was $1,342, up from $914 the year prior. Owner Larco attributes the sales increase to less productive retailers exiting the centre as well as foot traffic from new additions including a VIP Cineplex cinema that opened in the spring. 


Casper Opens 7th Retail Showroom in Canada: Mattress-in-a-box brand Casper, which began as an online brand, has opened seven Canadian showrooms over the course of about 18 months. Most recently, Casper unveiled a 2,400 square-foot retail space at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre — it’s Canada’s most productive in terms of annual sales per square foot and is also home to the largest single clustering of luxury brands anywhere in Canada.

Yorkdale’s Casper is located near the mall’s TTC subway entrance and is directly across from the Dyson experience showroom — the future of physical retail is experiential, and Yorkdale is on the forefront with recently launched concept stores including Kit Kat and pop-ups such as Keurig which opened on Monday and will remain operational until December 23rd. 

Casper also recently opened at Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket, north of Toronto, as well as at the Toronto Premium Outlets. Other locations include West 4th Avenue in Vancouver and CF Chinook Centre in Calgary. Casper’s first Canadian retail space was at CF Sherway Gardens in Toronto which opened in May of 2018, and a Canadian flagship and head office opened on Queen Street West in Toronto almost exactly a year ago. 


Founders of Design Firm Yabu Pushelberg Launch Product Line with Yorkville Pop-Up: George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg, in collaboration with Yuichiro Hori (of StellarWorks) have designed a new lifestyle line of housewares and furniture called ‘departo’ (spelled lower-case) that is on display until December 28 in the retail space at the base of the Hazelton Hotel at 118 Yorkville Avenue in Toronto (formerly occupied by a goop pop-up shop that was featured in Retail Insider). 

The 1,300 square-foot boutique, also called departo, houses products including furniture, ceramics, textiles, metal work, and glassware. Prices are meant to be affordable while being of high quality. Included are items such as elegant and utilitarian folding chairs ($464) and cafe tables ($542), neutral-hued napkins ($33), and stoneware bowls ($21-$37). They’re described as being “versatile, beautifully minimal, and built to last”. 

It’s being described as “the world’s first lifestyle label to create ‘Essentials for Global Nomads’”. The collection is also available on departo’s new e-commerce site. The line first launched in New York City. 

After departo departs its 118 Yorkville Avenue space, construction will commence for an upscale brand from France that will make its Canadian retail debut in the spring of 2020. 

Square One Pop Up. Photo: StickerYou

StickerYou Opens Square One Pop-Up: Unique retail concept StickerYou has opened a pop-up space at the Square One shopping centre in Mississauga. The boutique kiosk spans about 10 x 15 feet and is located across from H&M and Pandora stores in the hallway between Holt Renfrew and Uniqlo. 

The pop-up will be open until January 15, 2020, and features hundreds of popular die-cut stickers, decals, patches and temporary tattoos. Design themes include artists, music, funny, motivational, cute, sports, entertainment and other diverse offerings, and are manufactured by the company in Toronto. While the company has been around since 2008, it only recently got into retail. 

StickerYou’s retail expansion includes the world’s largest sticker store, which is located at 677-679 Queen Street West in Toronto. The three-level storefront is a sight to behold and is highly experiential — customers can customize designs in a whimsical space that stands out with a colourful facade and bright interior. 

StickerYou’s brick-and-mortar expansion speaks to the tangible nature of retail — while brands are able to sell online, creating a physical show space engages with the consumer and creates legitimacy. Physical retail, when done right, is also memorable and that connection is a way to further enforce brand awareness at a time of unprecedented distraction.  


Zaatar w Zeit Opens 1st Canadian location: Lebanese food concept Zaatar w Zeit opened its first Canadian location in Vancouver last week after considerable delays — Retail Insider reported on the 531 Granville Street location in October of 2017, and the concept was supposed to open in the first quarter of 2018. 

Zaatar w Zeit means “Thyme and Olive Oil” which are the cornerstone ingredients of the flatbread wraps that were baked in its first forno ovens. Fresh dough is drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with a mix of wild thyme and toasted sesame seeds. The steaming hot wraps are made fresh to order with cheese and other toppings taking their place alongside thyme and olive oil. Martin Moriarty and Mario Negris of CBRE Vancouver represented the landlord in the deal with Zaatar w Zeit.

More Canadian locations are expected to follow for the delicious concept, which chose Canada for a North American expansion because of its welcoming nature and multiculturalism. And while Canada is home to a large Lebanese population, the country is also known to embrace ethnic flavours which is seeing a flurry of international concepts opening locations here. 

Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House Re-Opens 1st Canadian Location After Renovation: The downtown Toronto location for Ruth’s Chris Steak House opened earlier this month after an extensive renovation. The restaurant first opened in June of 1995 on the lower level of the Hilton Hotel at Richmond Street and University Avenue.

The 6,727 square foot restaurant’s renovation was designed by Toronto-based DesignAgency. Matthew Davis, Founding Partner at DesignAgency, said, “In terms of their existing dining rooms, we wanted to re-look at modern dining rooms and how they’re set up and how they’re architecturally designed to expand the usable space. We used classic cues and elements for which Ruth’s Chris is known, like their wine displays, service, table set-up and décor. What we did want to add and enhance was the seating and privacy options. Now, there’s a great private dining area.” 

As lighting in the restaurant is dim, visitors will have to look closely to see that much of the wood paneling on walls and cabinets is now dark green in colour — the look is intended to reflect “an urban steakhouse feel” and replaces cherry-like wood tones formerly in the restaurant space. White barrel-ceilings make the space feel roomy despite being in the basement of a hotel.  

New private function rooms for events and special occasions are fully-stocked with A/V equipment including built-in TV and internet access. The bar area also saw an upgrade to make if feel more casual — it’s a contrast to the more formal dining room nearby. 

Ruth’s Chris GTA co-franchisee Lana Duke attended the re-opening with her son and co-franchisee David Duke. The duo own other GTA locations including a Markham restaurant that opened last year, as well one near the airport and in Niagara Falls. Franchised Ruth’s Chris restaurants are also located in Edmonton and Calgary. The chain was founded by Ruth Fertel 55 years ago in New Orleans and boasts more than 150 locations globally. Ms. Duke may be known for her radio ads where she says “if it doesn’t sizzle, send it back”. 

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