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St. John Flagship Store Opening Indicates Confidence in Toronto’s ‘Mink Mile’ [Photos]

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Leasing activity and store openings indicate a renewed confidence amongst brokers and retailers seeking to locate on Toronto’s Bloor Street West, following the recent opening of grocerant concept Eataly. Last week, US-based women’s luxury fashion brand St. John became the latest luxury tenant on the Mink Mile when it opened a standalone corporately-owned flagship storefront.

The Toronto St. John boutique spans a 2,100-square-foot retail space in a leased building occupying about 2,500 square feet at 130 Bloor Street West, located between an under-renovation Gucci flagship and an Intermix store. The space that St. John moved into was once occupied by French luxury brand Hermes before it relocated to a much larger flagship space nearby in the fall of 2017. 

“We’re thrilled to expand St. John’s global footprint by opening a second location in Canada on one of the most important luxury retail streets in Toronto,” said Eran Cohen, CEO of St. John. “This latest store opening reinforces our commitment to growth, as well as to our Canadian clientele. We’re excited to offer an elevated shopping experience that is in line with the new direction of our brand and reflective of the high-touch customers have come to expect from this American luxury fashion house.”

PHOTO: ST JOHN

The new Toronto flagship features a bright, modern, open-concept design with a hint of California casual. It’s St. John’s newest store concept which is different in appearance from the Vancouver St. John storefront that has operated at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver for years. 

For the opening, the Toronto flagship includes “a bold, fashion-forward capsule collection” in the store — such collections are usually only available online. St. John is clearly in expansion mode and recently launched a social media campaign and a redesigned logo, all part of a shift being spearheaded by St. John’s new creative director Zoe Turner. As part of the campaign for the capsule collection, more than 100 influences including celebrities, inclusivity advocates, and fashion tastemakers promoted the brand to a wide global audience, marking a new direction for St. John. 

St. John’s Toronto flagship is the first in North America to feature an exclusive button customization concept —  customers are able to choose from 36 signature archive buttons to customize a newly purchased St. John jacket. Clients also have the option of bringing in their classic St. John jackets to have them reimagined with new buttons as well.

PHOTO: ST JOHN

St. John has operated a standalone store in the Vancouver market since 2003. The current location at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver spans about 3,000 square feet on one level and opened in the spring of 2014 — it replaced a restaurant that once occupied the space. Prior to that, St. John occupied the coveted corner of West Georgia Street and Burrard Street within the Hotel Vancouver. After St. John relocated, Christian Dior began building a 9,600-square-foot, two-level Vancouver flagship that opened in the summer of 2015.  

In Canada, several stores carry St. John fashion collections. Nordstrom carries the line in its ‘Collectors’ departments in downtown Toronto, Ottawa, and Calgary stores. Hudson’s Bay’s ‘The Room’ in Toronto offers a range of elegant St. John clothing. 

Prices in the Toronto St. John store were certainly in the luxury category. Many jackets and dresses, done with beaded detailing, retailed for excess of $3,000 per piece.  

PHOTO: ST JOHN

Dianne Lemm of brokerage JLL co-brokered the St. John Bloor Street lease deal with Hanna Struever of Retail Portfolio Solutions. Kingsett Capital is the landlord of the 130 Bloor property. 

Ms. Lemm recently commented that she expected Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville to continue to see interest from luxury brands. That was reflected in a study by real estate company JLL which provided an expansive overview of the area that was overwhelmingly optimistic. 

At the same time, Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre is seeing a rate of luxury store openings that has never been seen in Canada. And there’s no end in sight. Yorkdale is clearly a competitor to Bloor-Yorkville, though one expert thinks each serves a purpose and furthermore, that Bloor-Yorkville will become Canada’s leading luxury node in terms of the number of standalone luxury stores. 

“Yorkdale is about the shopper and the convenience. Bloor and Yorkville are about the consumer and the experience” said Nishant Anand, a luxury retail expert who is located in Toronto. “Yorkdale had a clustering of luxury brand stores, but you cannot replicate the flagship desirability that is possible in Bloor-Yorkville. Many luxury brands like the street-facing store concept and while Yorkdale is very good at what it does, there are more aesthetic, spa and food and beverage options in Bloor-Yorkville, for example.” 

“Other brands such as Hermes have maintained an exclusive store presence on Bloor Street West, signalling the importance of the area. International luxury brands are definitely looking at the area and may need a bit more convincing before they decide to open in Bloor-Yorkville. Ultimately, given the authenticity of a street-like downtown area, it’s likely that Bloor-Yorkville will continue to morph with the transformation of the area, which includes thousands of new condominium units, new retail and restaurants, and hotel activity including the recently announced Andaz and W Hotels opening at the corner of Yonge and Bloor Streets, as well as the multi-million dollar renovation of the already exceptional Hazelton Hotel on Yorkville Avenue,” said Anand. 

“I would expect to see brands such as Balenciaga, Fendi, Balmain, Valentino, and even Delvaux and Goyard considering the area in the near future,” he went on to say. “Yorkville Avenue especially will have an appeal, given the potential to completely design a new store from the ground up. At the same time, there is an appeal to having a storefront on the upscale stretch of Bloor Street West. There’s a Hermes flagship, a Louis Vuitton Maison, North America’s largest Dior store, Flagships for Prada, Burberry, Tiffany & Co., MCM and others, not to mention St. John has just opened on Bloor Street as well.”

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Located in Toronto, Craig is the Editor-in-Chief of Retail Insider and President/CEO of Retail Insider Media Ltd. He is also a retail analyst and consultant, Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton, and consultant to the Retail Council of Canada. 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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