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International Retailers Entered Canada at a Rapid Pace Over the Past 12 Months (List/Analysis)

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International brands continue to enter Canada by opening standalone retail stores. In 2019, 30 brands opened stores in Canada according to our count, further adding competition at a challenging time in the Canadian retail industry. 

That number is about the same as in 2018, when about 30 international brands entered the country by opening stores. That was down from a record-breaking 50 international retailers that entered Canada in 2017, which was the most of any year in Canada’s history. 

Retail Insider has tracked international retailers entering Canada over the past five years. In 2014, we counted 20 international brands that entered Canada by opening stores, and in 2015 we reported that 28 retailers had opened their first freestanding locations in Canada that year. In 2016, Retail Insider wrote a special edition piece for Retail Council of Canada’s publication Canadian Retailer, where we counted 21 international retailers that had come to Canada by opening stores that year. 

With almost 30 international brands entering Canada in 2019, it’s clear that Canada continues to be a target for retailers expanding operations globally. In many respects, it makes sense. Canada is an advanced country that is relatively safe and stable both politically and economically. International retailers have been part of Canada’s history since its inception, and Canada’s multiculturalism has resulted in strong name recognition for many brands prior to even entering the country. As the world becomes globalized, Canada is expected to continue to see international brands open stores for many years to come — industry insiders say that could include well known grocery giants as well as international department store chains that have either launched global expansions or are planning to do so.

The concept of retailers ‘entering Canada’ has become a bit blurred over the past several years, and Holt Renfrew is responsible for some of that. Over the past three years, Holt Renfrew’s business model has involved dedicating a substantial amount of store space to leased concessions, which in reality means that many luxury brands have already launched retail operations in Canada, albeit within the host retailer. To keep consistent with previous years’ tallies, Retail Insider continues to track brands that have opened standalone stores in Canada. At the same time some big names that technically have Canadian operations may continue to operate in stores such as Holt Renfrew rather than opening standalone units. In the future, some of the concession brands contained in retailers such as Holt Renfrew will eventually step out to open standalone stores in Canadian cities after gaining name recognition as well as a loyal clientele. 

In terms of geography, the breakdown of cities that saw first-to-Canada stores open in 2019 are broken down as follows: 

  • Toronto/GTA: 18 

  • Montreal: 5 

  • Vancouver: 3 

  • Ottawa: 2

  • Edmonton: 1 

  • Halifax: 1 

The Toronto area is clearly the primary entry point for international brands opening stores in Canada, far surpassing any other market in 2019. Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre saw six international brands open stores in the mall — over the past several years, Yorkdale has launched more first-to-Canada retail concepts than any other place in the country. In Montreal, three of the five first-to-Canada openings in that area were at the CF Fairview Carrefour Laval, speaking to the strength of that shopping centre as well. 

The following is Retail Insider’s count of the international brands that entered Canada in 2019 by opening standalone stores. The list is broken down into four quarters with a brief discussion of each time period.

Q1 2019: Four international brands opened first-in-Canada stores in the first quarter of 2019. The year got off to a slow start with the first of the four stores opening in March. 

VALENTINO, YORKDALE SHOPPING CENTRE. PHOTO: MICHAEL MURAZ

Valentino: Italian luxury brand Valentino opened its first standalone Canadian flagship at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre in March of 2019, next to a Bottega Veneta flagship that opened in November of 2018. The 4,700-square-foot Valentino store features the full range of Valentino fashions for men and women, including ready-to-wear, bags, accessories, and footwear. For years the Valentino brand has been available at multi-brand luxury stores in Canada including Holt Renfrew and more recently at Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom. More standalone Valentino stores are expected for Canada — Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville is said to be in line for a store, and the Vancouver market is also a likely target for the luxury brand as many brands go direct-to-consumer. Valentino pulled out of multi-brand footwear retailer Davids Footwear which partly resulted in its demise — Davids shuttered its five Ontario stores in October of 2019. [Read the Full Article on Valentino Here]

ARMANI CASA, VANCOUVER. PHOTO: HELEN SIWAK

Armani/Casa: Italian designer Giorgio Armani’s home furnishings brand Armani/Casa opened its first standalone Canadian storefront in Vancouver in March of 2019. The 2,200-square-foot retail space, located in Vancouver’s ‘Armoury District’ is only the fourth Armani/Casa location in North America, with three others in the United States. A range of minimalist furniture items are available ranging from larger furniture items to lamps and smaller items. It’s unknown if more Canadian stores will open, though Toronto would be a logical guess for a second location. [Read the Full Article Here]

Tan Mujiang: In March of 2019, unique Chinese comb brand Tang Mujiang opened its first Canadian storefront at the Scarborough Town Centre in Toronto. The 612-square-foot retail space features artful traditional Chinese wooden combs and mirrors boasting “oriental charm and exquisite craftsmanship.” The company said that it was seeking franchise partners to expand the retail concept to other markets in Canada. [Read the Full Article Here]

PHOTO: PENTI

Penti: Turkish women’s fashion brand Penti opened its first Canadian store in March of 2019 in downtown Halifax at the Park Lane Mall on Spring Garden Road. As many as 10 stores could open in Canada by the end of 2021, according to the retailer’s Canadian partner. Penti refers to itself as a “Turkish-European franchise”, with more than 600 stores in Turkey, Europe, and the Middle East. Product categories carried in Penti stores include: women’s intimates, hosiery/legwear, socks (for both women and men), activewear, beachwear, and some homeware items, according to its website. [Read the Full Article Here]

ALYX STOREFRONT (26 BELLAIR STREET) ON MARCH 16, 2018. PHOTO: CRAIG PATTERSON

ALYX: In March of 2019, Toronto became home to the world’s first standalone storefront for edgy and upscale New York City-based fashion brand 1017 ALYX 9SM. The boutique, operated in a partnership with multi-brand retailer CNTRBND, opened in a 1,700 square foot space at 26 Bellair Street in Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville area. California native Matthew Williams founded 1017 ALYX 9SM in 2015 and the brand is known for its unique and fashion-forward streetwear styles. On the store’s opening date, crowds of young affluent shoppers (mostly Asian) flooded the store after its opening was announced by the brand and CNTBND on Instagram, speaking to the power of social media. [Read the Full Article Here]

Q2 2019: In the spring/summer of 2019, six international brands entered Canada by opening stores. 

SILK LAUNDRY’S MONTREAL BOUTIQUE. PHOTO: MAXIME FRECHETTE

Silk Laundry: In April of 2019, Australian fashion brand Silk Laundry opened its first Canadian storefront in Montreal’s Little Burgundy area. Designer Katie Kolodinski founded the brand in 2015 and has three stores in Australia. Ms. Kolodinski, who grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario, moved back to Canada last year with her Australian husband and business partner, Reece Rackley, to operate the new store as well as to offer their children French-immersion schooling. Silk Laundry features a range of attractive and durable silk garments such as dresses and camisoles that perform well in hot temperatures. Handbags and shoes are next to be produced as Silk Laundry becomes a lifestyle brand. The Montreal store is expected to be the only standalone location in Canada as Silk Laundry looks to expand sales via its e-commerce website as well as securing wholesale accounts in multi-brand retailers. [Read the Full Article Here]

PHOTO: XIMIVOGUE

Ximivogue: In the spring of 2019, “Korean” variety retail concept XIMIVOGUE entered the Canadian market under a franchise model with stores opening in Toronto. The company is actually from China, and sells a range of products at low prices including household goods, clothing, jewelry, cosmetics and beauty products, toys, and other small goods, with about 7,000 products in total. The first two stores opened at CF Sherway Gardens and at CF Fairview Mall in Toronto, and locations have since opened including a downtown store at College Park in October. A national expansion for the retailer is expected for 2020. [Read the Full Article Here]

PHOTO: CHANEL

Chanel Beauty: Canada’s first standalone Chanel beauty boutique opened in May of 2019 at Toronto’s Holt Renfrew Centre. The 1,280-square-foot storefront is connected to Holt Renfrew’s concourse-level beauty hall which opened earlier in the spring. The Chanel boutique features beauty, fragrances, and sunglasses, as well as a private treatment room. Chanel itself has had a retail presence in Canada since 1989 when the brand opened its first standalone store at 131 Bloor Street West in Toronto, and prior to that the brand had a partner boutique in multi-brand luxury retailer Creeds which operated for years at the Manulife Centre in Toronto until its bankruptcy in 1990. [Read the Full Article on the Chanel Boutique Here]

SHENG TANG PEONY STOREFRONT, YORKVILLE AVENUE. PHOTO: CRAIG PATTERSON

Sheng Tang Peony: Chinese luxury brand Sheng Tang Peony opened its first standalone Canadian storefront on Toronto’s Yorkville Avenue in the spring of 2019. The store features beautiful hand-made garments as well as bags and jewellery, some of which are one-of-a-kind. Fabrics include silks and cashmere and buttons on some garments are made from semi-precious stones. We spied a vest, which took nearly a year to make, priced at more than $17,000. Many other items are priced considerably lower, though pricing is still in line with what one might find in Bloor-Yorkville. Toronto is the only standalone location for Sheng Tang Peony after a unit in San Francisco closed earlier this year — other boutiques are in China and Taiwan and are part of a partnership with Aman Resorts. A New York City location is expected to be unveiled in a new Aman hotel set to open in the city in 2020. [Read the Full Article Here]

RAINS’ VANCOUVER STOREFRONT. PHOTO: LEE RIVETT

Rains: Danish rain-focused brand ‘Rains’ opened its first Canadian store in Vancouver in May of 2019. The Vancouver store spans 750 square feet on Carall Street in Vancouver’s historic Gastown area and carries an expansive assortment of waterproof bags and accessories as well as ponchos in a variety of colours. Vancouver is expected to see several Rains stores prior to a national expansion — founder Philip Lotko told Retail Insider that the goal is to create a clustering of stores in the Vancouver market to create a strong brand awareness, prior to moving into other major markets such as Toronto and Montreal. [Read the Full Article Here]

PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER LUI

Sarah Jessica Parker: The first standalone Canadian store for US footwear brand SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker opened in June of 2019 at West Edmonton Mall. The store carries an expansive range of footwear from the access known for her stint on the TV series ‘Sex and the City’. The West Edmonton Mall store is unique in how it slopes upwards as one walks into the space — Retail Insider toured the store in September during a visit to Edmonton. More locations could follow, though only a handful of SJP stores exist globally in a partnership with Triple Five Group. [Read the Full Article Here]

Q3 2019: Between July and September of 2019, seven more international brands entered Canada by opening stores. Several of these have big plans to expand across the country by opening multiple locations. 

REFORMATION’S YORKDALE STOREFRONT. PHOTO: JEFF BERKOWITZ VIA LINKEDIN.

Reformation: In July of 2019, US-based fashion brand Reformation opened its first Canadian store at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre. The 1,650-square-foot store features the brand’s range of eco-friendly women’s fashions which have been a huge hit in the US market. More stores are planned for Canada, and are expected to be considerably larger than the Yorkdale store. They will include dressing rooms with interactive mirrors that also allow guests to customize lighting and music. Target markets for Reformation include downtown Toronto, Vancouver and possibly Montreal, with stores spanning between 2,000 and 3,000 square feet. [Read the Full Article Here]

PHOTO: GEORGE PIMENTEL

L.L. Bean: In August of 2019, US-based retailer L.L. Bean opened its fist Canadian store at Oakville Place in Oakville, Ontario. The 14,000-square-foot store is the first of about 20 stores for the retailer that are expected to open in Canada over the next 10 years in a partnership with Jaytex Group. L.L. Bean also struck wholesale partnerships with with multi-brand retailers including Hudson’s Bay and Sporting Life to roll out products across the country to help gain brand awareness. [Read the Full Article Here]

RENDERING: DAMAT/TWEEN

DAMAT/TWEEN: Turkish men’s fashion brand DAMAT/TWEEN entered Canada in August of 2019 when it opened a storefront at CF Rideau Centre in Ottawa. The store is franchised under ownership of family-owned Nextrue and is marketed by Luxi Management. Product is dressy and attractive, including suiting and accessories such as ties and cufflinks. More Canadian stores are expected for Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal over the next four years before expanding into the US. The retailer is part of a partnership with landlord Cadillac Fairview which means the next batch of Canadian stores will be in ‘CF’ malls. [Read the Full Article Here]

PHOTO: INNISFREE VIETNAM VIA FACEBOOK

Innisfree: Korea’s leading beauty brand Innisfree launched its Canadian expansion in August of 2019 at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre. It was followed by openings at CF Toronto Eaton Centre and Scarborough Town Centre, and a national expansion will commence in 2020. Innisfree’s products are known to be eco-friendly, being South Korea’s “first all natural brand” with many of its ingredients being sourced from Jeju Island. The Vancouver market is said to be in the works for stores, according to a representative from CBRE. [Read the Full Article Here]

OUTSIDE THE NEW STACKT MARKET STOREFRONT. PHOTO: NICK LEE @BESTOFTORONTO

Puebco: Japanese sustainable lifestyle brand Puebco opened its first Canadian storefront at Toronto’s Stackt Market in August of 2019. The store showcases a unique range of products made from recycled materials, as well as repurposed items. The Toronto store has an industrial-retro feel, as do many of the products. Plans are in place to open permanent stores in Vancouver and possibly Montreal — the company also launched a Canadian e-commerce site over the summer to expand brand awareness. [Read the Full Article Here]

THE 366 SQUARE FOOT ‘HAPPY PILLS’ STOREFRONT AT CF CARREFOUR LAVAL IN SUBURBAN MONTREAL. PHOTO: FREDGLOZMAN/REDDIT

Happy Pills: In the summer of 2019, Spanish ‘adult candy brand’ Happy Pills opened its first Canadian store at CF Carrefour Laval in Montreal. The 366-square-foot boutique is the first of many to open in Canada. The company says that it plans to open more than 20 stores in Canada, adding competition to an already crowded candy industry. Another adult-targeted candy brand, Sugarfina, shuttered both Toronto-area stores in 2019 after filing for bankruptcy in September — Sugarfina’s remaining store at Metropolis at Metrotown remains open after closings in Toronto’s Financial District and at Square One in Mississauga. [Read the Full Article Here]

PHOTO: CATH KIDSTON

Cath Kidston: In September of 2019, UK fashion brand Cath Kidston opened three pop-up stores in Canada. It’s part of a bigger expansion for the brand which is looking to open permanent storefronts in a partnership with Montreal-based Halcyon Brands. A broader Canadian store expansion is expected for 2020 as the brand, founded in London in 1993, gains brand awareness. [Read the Full Article Here]

Q4 2019: Between October and December of 2019, the pace picked up when 12 international brands opened stores in Canada. 

PHOTO: UNDER ARMOUR

Under Armour: Baltimore-based sportswear brand Under Armour opened its first ‘brand house’ in Canada in October of 2019 at CF Toronto Eaton Centre. The flagship spans 3,100 square feet on ‘Level 1’ of North America’s busiest retail complex. More Under Armour ‘brand houses’ are expected to open in major markets in Canada, though the company wouldn’t go on record to say where and how many. Under Armour also operates ‘factory stores’ in Canada, though the CF Toronto Eaton Centre location is the brand’s first full-priced concept store in the country. [Read the Full Article Here]

FURLA, YORKDALE SHOPPING CENTRE. PHOTO: MICHAEL MURAZ

Furla: Upscale Italian bag and accessory brand Furla opened its first Canadian store at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre in October of 2019. The 1,500-square-foot boutique is located alongside other luxury brands near Holt Renfrew, displaying an assortment of hand bags as well as smaller goods in an attractive retail space. Montreal-based Halcyon Brands is the licensee for Furla in Canada and plans to roll out stores in markets such as Vancouver, Calgary, and Montreal as well as opening a downtown Toronto store in the future. [Read the Full Article Here]

PHOTO:CURIOSITY

Sungiven Foods: In the fall of 2019, Chinese grocery chain Sungiven Foods opened its first Canadian store at City Square in Vancouver. The store is the first of about 15 locations planned for the BC Lower Mainland over the next several years. A cross-Canada store expansion is expected, which could heat up competition amongst grocery retailers and particularly with Asian grocers as well as chains such as T&T. Sungiven Foods operates more than 100 stores in China and will also expand into the US. [Read the Full Article Here]

PHOTO: LI-NING

Li-Ning: Chinese sports brand Li-Ning opened its first retail showrooms in Canada in the fall of 2019 in Ottawa and Burlington, Ontario. The company says that it plans to open in 13 additional markets in Canada which will be followed by a US store expansion. The company is known for its high-quality, specialty racket and paddle sport equipment, shoes, and apparel with unique styles that are likely to see strong sales in Canada in years to come. [Read the Full Article Here]

PHOTO: STONE ISLAND

Stone Island: In November of 2019, upscale men’s fashion brand Stone Island opened its Canadian flagship on Yorkville Avenue in Toronto. The 2,500-square-foot, two-level store features a wide range of Stone Island fashions, a brand favoured by musician Drake. It’s only the third standalone storefront for Stone Island in North America, and the retailer has 26 standalone stores globally. Stone Island can also be found in upscale multi-brand retailers in Canada. It’s unconfirmed if any more Stone Island stores will open in Canada, though Vancouver is a logical location for a second store, while the line might also resonate with a Yorkdale shopper. [Read the Full Article Here]

PHOTO: TAG HEUER

TAG Heuer: In November of 2019, Swiss luxury watch brand TAG Heuer opened its first standalone Canadian storefront at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre. The 762-square-foot boutique is across from the recently opened Hublot store which is the first corporate location for Hublot in Canada (a franchised Vancouver boutique opened a couple of years ago). TAG Heuer is expected to open more stores in Canada with Vancouver and downtown Toronto expected to be targets. [Read the Full Article Here]

KIT KAT, YORKDALE. PHOTO: CRAIG PATTERSON

Kit Kat: In November of 2019, chocolate brand KitKat opened an innovative and experiential ‘Chocolatory’ retail space at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre. The highly interactive space allows guests to custom-design chocolate bars as well as buy unique creations not available elsewhere. A first in the world ‘chef’s table’ was introduced in the Yorkdale store as well. The store’s design is bright and branded and very Instagram-friendly. [Read the Full Article Here]

GLASS FACADE AT THE YORKDALE BALENCIAGA FLAGSHIP. PHOTO: NORMAN KATZ

Balenciaga: In late November of 2019, Kering-owned luxury brand Balenciaga opened its first standalone Canadian flagship at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre. The 4,700-square-foot storefront is located alongside other luxury brands including Valentino and Bottega Veneta, and is across from the mall’s Holt Renfrew store. Balenciaga could open more standalone stores in Canada with a focus on Bloor-Yorkville in Toronto, as well as in Vancouver, and Montreal’s Royalmount could be a target in years to come. Balenciaga’s direct-to-consumer expansion in Canada launched in late 2018 when it opened a ‘world of’ concession at Holt Renfrew in Vancouver, and Balenciaga now operates concessions in Holt Renfrew stores on Bloor Street in Toronto as well as at the soon to be completed Holt Renfrew Ogilvy in Montreal. [Read the Full Article Here]

PHOTO: LADERACH

Läderach: In December of 2019, Swiss chocolate brand Läderach opened its first Canadian store at CF Toronto Eaton Centre. The brand is known globally for its high-quality chocolates as well as its attractive looking stores. More locations are expected in Canada, with at least three Toronto-area stores expected as well as entry into markets such as Vancouver and Calgary. [Read the Full Article Here]

CF CARREFOUR LAVAL STORE. PHOTO: DANIEL WELLINGTON

Daniel Wellington: In December of 2019, Swedish watch brand Daniel Wellington opened its first standalone Canadian store at CF Carrefour Laval near Montreal. The brand is expected to expand its stores across the country in major markets. Daniel Wellington can be found in multi-brand retailers throughout Canada and there’s no word yet if distribution will be pulled-back amid the corporate store expansion.  [Read the Full Article Here]

PHOTO: VIBO CENTRE

Equivalenza: Spanish fragrance and beauty brand Equivalenza opened its first Canadian storefront at the Montreal Eaton Centre in downtown Montreal in December of 2019. The company is known for its extensive selection of affordable fragrances with the motto “a perfume for everyone”. The boutique is the first of more than 40 locations that are expected to open in Canada over the next decade. Master franchisee Corinne Barres says that she is seeking franchisees for other markets in Canada. [Read the Full Article Here]

La Maison du Savon de Marseille Storefront. PHOTO: MAXIME FRECHETTE

La Maison du Savon de Marseille: French soap and fragrance brand La Maison du Savon de Marseille opened its first Canadian store at CF Carrefour Laval in suburban Montreal in December of 2019. The 880-square-foot boutique carries the brand’s 100% natural products that include hand-crafted household soaps, as well as a range of fragrances and gift items. Two more Montreal-area stores are said to be in the works (including downtown Montreal and in Brossard) and a Canadian expansion could be expected if the brand takes hold with consumers. [Read the Full Article Here]

This month, Retail Insider will feature an analysis on the future of retail in Canada, particularly as international brands continue to enter the market with the intention of gaining market share. At the same time, retail is changing as consumers shift spending to online channels as well as on technology, while also spending more on experiences such as restaurants and travel. What we’re seeing is unprecedented competition that will result in more store closures, which will result in job losses as well as headaches for landlords. 

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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