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Chanel Expanding Canadian Presence with ‘Ground Floor’ Concessions

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Iconic French luxury brand Chanel is expanding its Canadian operations as it continues to relocate its Holt Renfrew concessions to street level spaces. It’s part of a trend for the brand, which boasts a fiercely loyal clientele, to locate near other world-renowned names that attract affluent shoppers to Holt Renfrew stores across the country.

Until recently, Chanel boutiques were located on women’s designer fashion floors within Holt Renfrew stores, and Chanel is now finding its place as a focused destination amongst other highly-productive brands that are seeing remarkable success within Holt Renfrew. Chanel currently operates five concessions within Holt Renfrew stores in Canada as well as a standalone 8,550-square-foot flagship on Yorkville Avenue in Toronto which relocated to its current space in November of 2017.

Big brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Dior have seen considerable success with their concessions within Holt Renfrew stores, prompting Chanel’s move to join them. While many of the main floor designer concessions at Holt Renfrew focus on bags and accessories, the Chanel boutiques feature categories that include ready-to-wear as well as bags, accessories, and footwear. The clustering of luxury shoppers clamouring for other big-name brands saw Chanel seek to join them.

ENTRANCE TO CHANEL FROM THE MAIN LEVEL OF HOLT RENFREW OGILVY. PHOTO: CHANEL

In mid-November of 2019, Chanel relocated its concession at Holt Renfrew’s Montreal store on Sherbrooke Street to a larger space on the ground floor of the newly rebranded 250,000-square-foot Holt Renfrew Ogilvy on Ste-Catherine Street which is currently under construction. Chanel occupies a 3,300-square-foot bi-level space with frontage on Rue de la Montagne adjacent to the new Four Seasons Hotel, and Chanel also has an entrance into the ground floor luxury hall that will be a significant draw for Holt Renfrew Ogilvy when the store’s renovations and expansions are completed this spring. Holt Renfrew’s current 78,000-square-foot store on Sherbrooke Street will close to coincide with the completion of Ste-Catherine Street’s massive new Holt Renfrew Ogilvy.

In Calgary, Chanel will relocate its current second-level boutique concession at Holt Renfrew in the ‘CORE’ shopping centre to a new ground floor boutique that will open in several months time. The new Chanel boutique will be considerably larger than its current space on Holt Renfrew’s second level women’s floor, moving into a space formerly occupied by Louis Vuitton as well as a former entrance foyer facing 7th Avenue Southwest. We reported that Vuitton exited Holt Renfrew’s Calgary store in October of 2018 to relocate to the suburban CF Chinook Centre.

When the Calgary Holt Renfrew Chanel concession moves to its new street-level space, four of Chanel’s five Canadian concessions will be located in main floor areas and thus will be removed from the women’s designer ready-to-wear sections within Holt Renfrew’s stores. Only Chanel’s Holt Renfrew concession at 50 Bloor Street West in Toronto will remain upstairs with other women’s fashion designers. The soon-to-be-completed luxury floor at Holts Bloor houses some of the world’s biggest designer names that include comprehensive ‘world of’ concessions for Saint Laurent, Fendi, and Balenciaga.

The ‘main floor trend’ for Chanel in Canada began in 2012 when Holt Renfrew expanded its Yorkdale Shopping Centre store in Toronto. Chanel moved into Holt Renfrew at that time with a new boutique featuring its own entrance into the mall, as well as from within Holt Renfrew (the concession is said to be very successful and it expanded in late 2017). In June of 2016, Chanel relocated its 1,800-square-foot concession on the second floor of Holt Renfrew’s Vancouver store to a street level space spanning more than 5,000 square feet. The Vancouver Chanel is said to do astronomically high sales which one source said represented about 1/4 of all of sales at that Holt Renfrew location.

CHANEL CALGARY. PHOTO: CRAIG PATTERSON

In the United States, Chanel occupies space in several Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus stores, as well as in six Nordstrom stores. Typically in those stores, Chanel ready-to-wear and accessories are separated with accessory shops located on the ground floor of the multi-brand retailer, with ready-to-wear shops located alongside other luxury brands on an upper level focused on women’s fashion.

Holt Renfrew’s Canadian stores operate differently than those US stores, however. Holt Renfrew’s leased concession model, which is similar to retailers such as Selfridges in London UK and other stores in Europe and Asia, has resulted in ground floor ‘luxury boutique halls’ that include a mix of accessory shops as well as larger shop-in-stores for major luxury brands. Yorkdale’s Holt Renfrew, which includes a second-level women’s floor, features several luxury brand concessions located on its main mall level that house ready-to-wear as well as other categories. Prada operates a large storefront at Holts Yorkdale along with a comprehensive Loro Piana shop which recently expanded around the store’s central escalator well. Comprehensive ‘world of’ Gucci and Fendi shops recently joined them along with Dior and Burberry ‘world of’ shops that both opened at Holts Yorkdale several months ago.

CHANEL BEAUTY, TORONTO. PHOTO: CHANEL

‘FRAGRANCE LIBRARY’ IN THE NEW TORONTO CHANEL FRAGRANCE AND BEAUTY BOUTIQUE. PHOTO: CHANEL

The Calgary Holt Renfrew store, which recently marked its 10th anniversary in its current location after vacating a much smaller space across the street in 2009, has a main floor level that includes several luxury brands as well as a 5,500-square-foot women’s footwear hall and a beauty floor. Most of the fashion boutiques, with names including Gucci, Prada, Celine, Miu Miu, Tiffany & Co., and Burberry carry bags and accessories only. The main floor of Calgary’s Holt Renfrew also houses concessions for Hermes and Loro Piana, which both carry ready-to-wear as well as bags and other categories.

We reported that Holt Renfrew closed its downtown Edmonton store in January of 2020 — sources say that one of the reasons for the closure was that some of Holt Renfrew’s partner brands were not interested in operating concessions in downtown Edmonton. After the Edmonton store closed last month, the only Holt Renfrew store in Canada that does not house a Chanel boutique will be Holt Renfrew’s Square One location in Mississauga, which opened in the summer of 2016. (We’re excluding the standalone ‘Holt Renfrew Men’ store at 100 Bloor Street West in this discussion as well as the soon-to-close Sherbrooke Street store in Montreal).

Chanel’s Toronto flagship at 98 Yorkville Avenue recently expanded on the second level into part of the space once occupied by fashion retailer Diesel. More than 1,000 square feet was added to house back-of-house operations to provide more room for retail within the store. Chanel relocated to Yorkville Avenue from The Colonnade at 131 Bloor Street West in November of 2017 after shuttering its Bloor storefront in December of 2016. Chanel had been on Bloor since 1989 and prior to that, the brand had a presence in the now defunct luxury multi-brand retailer Creeds that operated at the Manulife Centre at 55 Bloor Street West until its bankruptcy in 1990.

In the spring of 2019, Chanel also opened its first standalone beauty boutique on the concourse level of the Holt Renfrew Centre at 50 Bloor Street West in Toronto. The 1,280-square-foot Chanel beauty boutique has a mall-facing entrance into the Holt Renfrew Centre, and is also connected to Holt Renfrew’s recently unveiled 12,000 square foot lower level beauty hall.

We’ll follow up this article when Chanel opens its newly expanded boutique at Holt Renfrew in Calgary.

Article Author

Craig Patterson
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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