By Lee Rivett and Craig Patterson
Downtown Vancouver, which is usually busy during the day, is a virtual ghost town as people isolate at home amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The ‘non-essential’ retailers, restaurants and other businesses in the city have shut down for the most part, with some restaurants open for take-out while some are even selling grocery items.
Retail Insider’s Lee Rivett toured parts of Vancouver’s downtown core and took photos for this article. The following is a description of what was seen, including some details of what is to come — retail will see significant changes amid restructuring and bankruptcies as some stores will never reopen, while other new stores will be unveiled once the situation reaches normalcy or as some are calling it, the ‘new normal’.
The tour begins at the corner of Granville Street and Pender Street, where menswear retailer Dunn’s has announced that it will never reopen. Prior to COVID-19, sources had said that the retailer was struggling and was looking to close. The clearance is likely to continue in a few weeks when stores are permitted to open again, and bargain hunters looking for store fixtures may also want to have a look.
The Avenue Road furniture store at 301 W. Pender was featured in Retail Insider in 2018 when it opened. The store is a stone’s throw away from Victory Square park leading towards the Downtown Eastside and Gastown.
The 190,000-square-foot Holt Renfrew store at the northwest corner of Granville Street and Dunsmuir Street has closed temporarily, and the main floor is currently boarded up to prevent thefts. The Vancouver Holt Renfrew store was the chain’s top performer prior to its closure. Affluent Chinese shoppers were the store’s most lucrative demographic. Given that we don’t know when borders will be opened again for tourism, this Holt Renfrew store could take a further financial hit in the months to come. Below are more photos taken outside of the Holt Renfrew store at CF Pacific Centre.
Above: The upscale streetwear retailer Feuille has shut temporarily and its facade has been boarded up. The retailer carries merchandise that is sometimes priced into the thousands of dollars. Feuille also operates the impressive two-level Off-White store in Vancouver’s ‘Luxury Zone’ which was featured in Retail Insider when it opened in April of 2018.
The shuttered Miniso store on Granville Street has seen better days. Retail Insider has received several concerning emails from Miniso franchisees. It remains to be seen what the future of Miniso will be in Canada — when the retailer entered the country in 2017, it said that it planned to open 500 stores, possibly the most aggressive retail expansion in Canadian history. Many franchised locations have already closed permanently while corporately owned stores may reopen in a few weeks.
Calgary-based swimwear brand Swimco has boarded up its facade as it has shut temporarily. Last year Retail Insider featured owner Lori Bacon on a podcast.
Above: the Artizia store at CF Pacific Centre has shut temporarily. CF Pacific Centre itself can be entered at certain times of the day, though only a handful of food retailers are operating within.
The H&M flagship store, above, expanded last year by adding a third level on the concourse level of CF Pacific Centre. At almost 40,000 square feet, the H&M store is the second-largest in Canada. Until 2007, Holt Renfrew occupied the space prior to moving up the street to its current and much larger location.
Above: Nordstrom’s Vancouver flagship store, which opened to much fanfare in September of 2015, has boarded up parts of its facade until it is permitted to reopen. Until recently, the Vancouver store was said to be the company’s top performer, though a new Nordstrom location in Manhattan is expected to surpass Vancouver’s numbers. Given the uncertainty around tourism in Vancouver, the city’s Nordstrom store could take a sales hit in the months to come and even beyond.
The photo above is looking south from the corner of Dunsmuir Street and Howe Street. The Sephora store at the corner, located within CF Pacific Centre, will be relocating to another space within the mall when construction is finished (and stores are permitted to reopen). Amachris Corporation is building out the Sephora space.
Luxury menswear retailer Harry Rosen, which operates a highly productive location above Sephora, was said to be seeing sales per square foot in the $2,000 range prior to the temporary shutdown. Menswear, generally, is expected to see a sales hit as some men may work from home more in the future.
The photo above is looking towards the intersection of W. Georgia Street and Howe Street. The glass ‘igloo’ atrium at CF Pacific Centre will soon be demolished for what sources speculate will be a flagship Apple store. Below is a closer look at the soon-to-be-lost glass igloo.
The north plaza at the Vancouver Art Gallery is an important meeting place. It was deserted on a sunny Saturday afternoon, which is indeed unusual. CF Pacific Centre and Nordstrom can be seen behind it.
Above and below: the 637,000-square-foot Hudson’s Bay store at the northeast corner of Granville Street and W. Georgia Street has been shuttered temporarily. The store was in line for further renovations at some point. Prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, we were going to report that for the first time, menswear had been introduced into luxury department ‘The Room’ on the store’s second level. Some had speculated that Saks Fifth Avenue could occupy part of the building as is the case in Toronto, and now some are questioning if Saks will even keep its Canadian stores operational particularly given low sales numbers at the CF Sherway Gardens store in Toronto as well as at the CF Chinook Centre location in Calgary.
Above: A shuttered fashion boutique at the northeast corner of W. Georgia Street and Seymour Street. Most of the block will eventually be demolished for a new development that insiders have said will be “spectacular” and “unlike anything in Canada” to date.
Above: The tour takes a turn onto Robson Street, where artists have painted murals on some boarded up store facades. The Foot Locker store occupies a prominent location at the northwest corner of Robson Street and Hornby Street. The 800 block of Robson Street has been under construction to permanently close the street to vehicle traffic, which will shift vehicle movements in parts of the downtown core when construction is finished in the fall.
Italian brand Salvatore Ferragamo is the last remaining luxury brand on Robson Street. The temporarily closed store was the first Ferragamo location in Canada when it opened in the late 1980’s. In the 1980’s as well, a ‘Les Musts de Cartier’ store was located on the 700 block of Robson Street and other upscale fashion brands located on the 1000 and 1100 blocks of Robson Street at a time when some referred to it as Robsonstrasse.
A massive Victoria’s Secret flagship store has temporarily closed at the northeast corner of Robson Street and Burrard Street. Some are questioning if the store will eventually close, and some are questioning the fate of the chain generally. Industry insiders speculate that Japanese retailer Uniqlo could eventually replace Victoria’s Secret at that corner.
Lululemon’s flagship store at the southeast corner of Robson Street and Burrard Street has shut temporarily. The store will be expanding into an adjacent space on Robson Street that was until a few months ago occupied by Australian footwear retailer UGG. The UGG brand was in the process of shutting its remaining three Canadian stores prior to the pandemic closures. Below is another photo of the same Lululemon flagship store.
The photos in this section of this article were taken on the 1000 block of Robson Street. Many facades have been boarded over and artists have painted murals. Some are saying that some retailers on Robson Street may never reopen, which is also the case for many streets and malls across the country.
Canadian retailer Indigo probably should have included artwork on its boarded up facade — graffiti has ensued and has otherwise been an issue in parts Vancouver for years. Indigo opened its Robson Street store in 2018 after remodelling a space formerly occupied by Forever 21. The Forever 21 brand exited Canada last year after its US parent company filed for bankruptcy.
Above is the impressive two-level Sephora store on Robson Street’s 1100 block. The store opened to much fanfare in the fall of 2014. A construction site next to it will house at least one large retailer.
Retailers at the corner of Robson Street and Thurlow Street have closed, with boarded up storefronts featuring artwork at the three-level Banana Republic store as well as messaging at Artizia’s flagship store. Below are more photos of both stores.
Above and below are photos of the Muji store on the 1100 block of Robson Street. When it opened in December of 2017, it was the largest Muji store outside of Asia with more than 14,000 square feet of space. Last year an expanded 20,000-square-foot Muji store in downtown Toronto took that title.
The photo above shows vibrant artwork on the boarded up facade of the Steve Madden store on the 1100 block of Robson Street. Next to it is Ladurée which opened to long lineups in the spring of 2016. Below is a closeup photo of Ladurée, which is taking online orders on its recently revamped Canadian website.
Above is a photo of the temporarily closed Reigning Champ and Eddie Bauer stores on the 1100 block of Robson Street. It remains to be seen if Reigning Champ reopens and if it does, for how long.
French bakery concept Paul was set to open its first Canadian storefront on the 1100 block of Robson Street in the near future. It is across the street from Ladurée, and both businesses are owned by the Holder Group.
Downtown Vancouver’s first Uncle Tetsu Japanese cheesecake location will eventually open on the 1100 block of Robson Street. Its first location opened at Metropolis at Metrotown a couple of years ago.
The next leg of the tour includes Vancouver’s ‘Luxury Zone’ area, which spans the area between the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver to the East and the Shangri La and Trump hotels to the west. The Chopard store on the 900 block of West Georgia Street has been boarded up temporarily.
Below are several photos of shuttered retailers at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. Owned by Larco, the retail component of the hotel features five major luxury brands: Louis Vuitton, Dior, Omega, Gucci, and St. John Knits.
Above: The Gucci store at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, featuring frontage both on W. Georgia Street as well as Hornby Street, is shut temporarily. The store is said to be moving to a new 8,000-square-foot space in the area in 2021.
Above and below: The 9,600-square-foot two-level Dior flagship is shut temporarily. The store was the largest Dior location in North America when it opened in the summer of 2015. In the fall of 2019, a 14,300-square-foot Dior flagship store opened at 131 Bloor Street West in Toronto and that store currently holds the title of the largest Dior location on the continent.
Above and below: The 10,000-square-foot two-level Louis Vuitton flagship at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver has shut temporarily, and merchandise has been removed from within. The store was the largest Vuitton ‘Maison’ in Canada when it expanded in 2011. A year later, Louis Vuitton opened an 18,000-square-foot, two-level Maison at 150 Bloor Street West in Toronto.
Above: Louis Vuitton’s Burrard Street facade — the brand has been at the Hotel Vancouver for nearly 20 years and was only about 4,000 square feet when it first opened.
The photos above and below are of the impressive Hermes flagship store which opened in September of 2019. We featured the store, as well as the history of Hermes in Vancouver, in an expansive article last year. Hermes occupies nearly 6,000 square feet at the southwest corner of Burrard Street and W. Georgia Street within The Burrard Building, which also houses Tiffany & Co. (seen in the photos above) as well as Birks-operated Graff and Pakek Philippe boutiques, Rimowa, a Jimmy Choo boutique featured in this publication, and another jeweller which has not yet announced its new store facing onto Alberni Street.
Above is the storied 755 Burrard Street building. A Coach store features an art-filled boarded up facade — in the 1990’s, a Chanel boutique occupied the wider space where Coach is while the smaller space to the right was once home to a franchised boutique for french luxury brand Celine. The Papyrus space at 755 Burrard Street had already been vacated by the tenant following its bankruptcy several months ago.
The photo above was taken from in front of the Louis Vuitton store, looking down the 1000 block of Alberni Street. To the right of this photo is a Tiffany & Co. flagship store occupying nearly 10,000 square feet of space over two levels. The corner retail space on the left of this photo was until recently occupied by Hermes prior to its relocating to its larger space at 717 Burrard Street. French jeweller Cartier will replace Hermes in the corner location of the 755 Burrard building.
The photos above were taken on the 1000 block of Alberni Street, considered to be the heart of Vancouver’s ‘Luxury Zone’. Over the past seven years, luxury brands have opened boutiques in the area which has made it a destination.
Above: French luxury conglomerate Richemont Group operates several luxury brands on the 1000 block of Alberni Street. Richemont’s other Canadian store clustering is located at the Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto.
Upscale optical retailer Oliver Peoples opened one of its two Canadian stores last year on the 1000 block of Alberni Street in Vancouver. The little store is impressive inside, though it’s currently hidden behind the painted boarded up facade.
Above is The Carlyle retail complex on the 1000 block of Alberni Street. A 2013 renovation saw substantial updates that included a marble facade as well as the addition of luxury brands. Those include watch brand Hublot, diamond brand De Beers, women’s fashion brand Tory Burch, Italian luxury brand Prada, French luxury brand Saint Laurent, Italian fashion brand Moncler, and in the laneway behind, an impressive Off-White store.
In years past, The Carlyle was an underwhelming complex housing a 7-Eleven convenience store as well as a Dollar Tree location which opened in 2012. In the late 1990’s, duty free retailer DFS Galleria opened a 25,000-square-foot store at The Carlyle, though it had to shutter as it never got the rights to sell duty free goods. A former duty free store up the street had won those rights and it operated for years before seeing a spectacular downfall in sales after a tour bus parking space was removed from in front of it.
Above: Canada’s first standalone Burberry boutique opened more than a decade ago at the base of the Shangri La hotel at the corner of Alberni Street and Thurlow Street. Last year the store was doing well in terms of sales, though the Alberni Street area was already starting to see a sales decline amid a reduction in tourism as well as a crackdown on money leaving China.
Brunello Cucinelli opened its first standalone Canadian store at 745 Thurlow Street in 2015, and Versace opened its second standalone store in Canada next to it the same year. Plywood was being placed over the facade of the Versace store on Saturday.
Above is the 8,500-square-foot two-level Prada flagship which is located at the southeast corner of Alberni Street and Thurlow Street in The Carlyle — the space is very impressive. Below are photos of the shuttered Saint Laurent and Moncler boutiques at The Carlyle which both face onto Thurlow Street.
The tour now takes a turn to the upscale part of West Hastings Street. The photo above is of the soon-to-permanently-close Leone store at the Sinclair Centre at 757 W. Hastings Street (corner of Howe Street). We reported earlier this year that the storied store would shutter permanently after opening its impressive space in 1987.
The final two photos, above and below, are of the construction site of ‘The Post’ on W. Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver. Landlord QuadReal is developing the massive building which will eventually include a Loblaw City Market grocery store as well as a food hall and other retailers. Post-pandemic, it is unclear how people will embrace crowded food halls in Canada and elsewhere.
If you’ve made it to the end, thank you for reading our photo tour of downtown Vancouver. Feel free to comment below with any thoughts. What will downtown Vancouver look like when stores reopen again?