BRIEF: Luxury Brands Enter Canada, Holt Renfrew Expands E-Offerings


Luxury Jeweller Louis Black Introduces Canada’s 1st Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille boutiques: Luxury watch fans should check out the new retail location for Louis Black in Toronto, which last year relocated to a new space on the entire second floor of the stratified 135 Yorkville Avenue commercial building. 

When it opened last year, Louis Black unveiled one of the largest Richard Mille stores in the world, featuring a selection of pricey styles that can sell well into the six and even seven figures. Remarkably, the store has a waiting list for some styles so stock is somewhat limited. It’s the first Richard Mille boutique in Canada and one of only a handful globally. 

Louis Black recently finished construction on a separate boutique space for luxury watch brand Audemars Piguet. The boutique is said to “be on probation” prior to becoming a full-fledged official boutique, which would also be a first in Canada for the luxury brand.  

Security in the spaces is high — visitors are buzzed through a street-level entrance, and are personally escorted up an elevator to one of the two secured boutique spaces. Each boutique has it own secured entrance way, and security watches vigilantly. Which is understandable, given the price points on the watches carried in the shops. Interestingly, as part of the deal to secure Richard Mille, Louis Black is only carrying that brand and Audemars Piguet.

Holt Renfrew Ogilvy Exterior (CNW Group/Holt, Renfrew & Co., Limited)

‘Holt Renfrew Ogilvy’ Reveals New Menswear Brands: Luxury brand fans in Montreal will be pleased with the lineup of menswear brands carried in the revamped Holt Renfrew Ogilvy store in Montreal, which is under construction and is being revealed in phases. Holt Renfrew’s updated website shows that the updated fourth floor men’s store will have luxe brands including: Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Balmain, Brioni, Canali, Comme des Garçons Homme Plus, Common Projects (shoes), Dior Homme, Dolce & Gabbana, Dries Van Noten, Ermenegildo Zegna, Fendi, Givenchy, Gucci, Heshung, Isaia, Junya Watanabe, Moncler, Prada, The Row, Tom Ford, and Valentino. Celine’s new menswear line will also be featured.

It’s an impressive lineup, matched in Canada only by Holt Renfrew’s highly productive Vancouver flagship store. Holt Renfrew Ogilvy, which is expanding to 250,000 square feet and will involve merging Ogilvy and Holt Renfrew storefronts, will become the largest luxury store in Canada in terms of overall square footage.

Menswear retailer Harry Rosen, which carries many of the same brands, will no doubt take notice of the lineup. Retail Insider will analyze the situation further in a few months as the gloves come off in the competition for high-end menswear in Montreal.

Toronto’s downtown Holt Renfrew store, currently occupying 16,500 square feet in a separate building at 100 Bloor Street West, will relocate next year onto the third floor of Holts’ flagship at 50 Bloor Street West, occupying about 25,000 square feet. A similar brand lineup to that of Montreal and Vancouver is expected, including shop-in-stores not present in the smaller 100 Bloor unit. 


Auto Showrooms Expanding in Malls and Airports: Car dealerships have traditionally been located in standalone buildings, some in far-flung locations. In Canada, that began to change in 2017 when upscale Genesis Motors announced that it was commencing its Canadian expansion, and that several shopping centres were targets for showrooms.

After Genesis Motors opened its first Canadian storefront in downtown Toronto, the company announced that it was opening in enclosed malls. In October of 2017, Genesis Motors opened a 4,050 square foot showroom at Square One in Mississauga, followed soon after by a 2,800 square foot space at CF Carrefour Laval in suburban Montreal.  

Several months ago, Genesis Motors opened a showroom at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. Foot traffic is expansive — millions pass through the terminal yearly and much like a busy shopping centre, offers considerable exposure. More than 2,000 people pass through the space weekly. Genesis’ slogan of “We Come to You” is applicable — included is a branded valet parking area, pick-up and vehicle display (including a custom 3D projection mapping experience), and the ability to book test drives at the airport. To amplify the exposure, Genesis Motors includes traditional advertising throughout the airport property. 

Other auto dealers are expanding into malls. Tesla operates several showrooms in Canadian shopping centres, which are expected to remain operational after CEO Elon Musk announced that Tesla would not be shuttering its storefronts as previously planned. Mercedes Benz operates a showroom at CF Markville north of Toronto, which we profiled when it opened in September of 2017. Over the holiday season, as well, Fascination Porsche opened a pop-up in Mississauga’s Square One, located next to Salvatore Ferragamo and across from Holt Renfrew. 

Boutique Fitness Concepts Expanding in Canada: Cyclebar, a US-based network of premium indoor spin cycle studios, is looking to expand its presence in Canada with a second Toronto-area location.  The fitness concept’s first Toronto studio opened in March 2017 in the city’s upscale Leaside neighbourhood.

What distinguishes Cyclebar from their competitors is their concierge-level service, high quality audio and visual technology, premium amenities, and access to detailed performance metrics for each rider.  Cyclebar is part of the Xponential Fitness family whose portfolio includes fitness concepts like: Row House, Club Pilates, and Yogasix. 

The company has retained Aurora Realty Consultants to find their next Toronto location; they are represented by Jeri Brodie.  For its next studio(s), Cyclebar is seeking between 2000 – 2500 square feet with 1000 square feet dedicated to studio space.  The studio space should be 25 feet wide with 14-foot ceilings – ideally column-free or with minimal columns.  Cyclebar is open to a two-level space, as well as basement or second level spaces.

In terms of location, Cyclebar is seeking a space in downtown or west Toronto in a safe and densely populated neighbourhood.  Preferred locations will have a mix of residential and daytime employees, easily accessible parking and public transit with average household income ranging from mid to high levels.

The integration of technology into fitness is a common thread we are observing with these niche fitness concepts.  Both Cyclebar and Orangetheory offer members access to performance metrics that can help improve their workouts and show them results in a way that is not loss of inches or pounds.  With Cyclebar, members receive an email after every class with their CycleStats which includes metrics like: calories burned, power and RPM.  The wearable technology utilized by Orangetheory allows instructors to determine in real time if a member is overworking themselves or is not performing at the level they know they could.  By making this type of data available to their members, Orangetheory and Cyclebar are able to further distinguish themselves from the competition.


Richemont Group Expanding Presence in Vancouver’s ‘Luxury Zone’: More luxury brands are on the way for Vancouver’s Alberni Street ‘Luxury Zone’. Last week, construction hoarding went up on the retail space at 1055 Alberni Street that reveals that the rumours were true — Swiss accessories retailer Montblanc (known for its pricey writing instruments) is once again opening a storefront in downtown Vancouver, and Richemont’s watch brand Vacheron Constantin will open in an interconnected space with it. 

The 1055 Alberni Street retail space was most recently occupied by upscale multi brand women’s retailer Blubird, which last year relocated to a new space at 1108 Alberni Street (formerly occupied by Strellson). 

CBRE’s Vancouver Urban Retail Team handled both the Richemont lease as well as Blubird’s store relocation, under the direction of Mario Negris and Martin Moriarty

Montblanc closed its storefront at 717 Burrard Street in the spring of 2018 in preparation for Hermes to relocate its Burrard Street premises — Hermes, which opens in a few months, will occupy two levels and more than 6,000 square feet. Montblanc opened its Burrard Street storefront in the spring of 2013. 

Sources confirm that once Hermes relocates to the corner of Burrard Street and West Georgia Street, Cartier will commence construction to open a new storefront at 755 Burrard Street. In the 1990’s, the space was occupied by defunct Banff-based fashion and fur retailer Saitoh. Chanel and Celine also once operated boutiques at 755 Burrard Street, and Coach now occupies both spaces. 

Holt Renfrew Expands Online Offerings: Toronto-based Holt Renfrew has been beefing up its e-commerce site over the past few months, and it now offers a comprehensive assortment of fashions for men and women, as well as footwear, accessories, leather goods and beauty products. 

Holts got off to a late start in the online shopping game. The company announced in early 2014 that it planned to launch a comprehensive e-commerce site, and some hiccups along the way delayed the process. It appears to have been worth the wait, as there are now thousands of products on the website for shoppers seeking some of the world’s leading brands. Even more product is available in-store including brands such as Chanel, which doesn’t permit stores such as Holts to sell online. 

Flow Water Debuts Innovative AI Mirrors in North America: Flow Alkaline Spring Water has launched unique augmented reality mirrors as part of their innovative in-store demonstration program. The technology, powered by memomi, will be the first of its kind in the grocery space.

The experience will bring to life Flow’s summer campaign of the “Superpower of Alkalinity”. The interactive AR experience with customized memomi Memory Mirrors ® will track the customer’s face to add ‘super power’ illustrations that coincide with Flow’s original alkaline spring water or one of the brand’s six organic flavours to create an immersive experience that can then be shared on social media.

“What inspired me first and foremost to incorporate the technology into our product experience was our five million customers,” says Nicholas Reichenbach, Founder & CEO of Flow Alkaline Spring Water. “We hear all the time from them how amazing our super water makes people feel and wanted to bring that feeling to life in a fun way.”

The technology was revealed at the 2019 Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California in March, and launches in participating grocery stores in Canada and the United States with Flow product demonstrations in May of this year. The above video provides a demonstration. 

*Files from Julia Marchionda, Helen Siwak and Craig Patterson



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