Reopened Toronto Stores See Lineups Amid Pent-Up Demand

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Street-facing stores began opening last Friday in Toronto and pent-up demand saw shoppers line up in some areas. Since then, some retailers have reported impressive sales numbers though uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus could see that change.

On the Bloor Street West ‘Mink Mile’ on Saturday and into the week, shoppers lined up outside of stores such as Zara, H&M, Sephora, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co, and others. On Queen Street West, those retailers that had opened also saw strong business early on, and some have seen steady traffic through the week as summer weather has arrived in southern Ontario.

The warm weekend also saw more than 10,000 people gather at Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto’s West End which caused concern. If an increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths occur, more strict regulations could be implemented by governments.

Retailers with street entrances across Toronto have implemented protocols for hygiene and safety as they welcome customers. The lineups at some retailers are due to capacity limits within spaces, necessitated by physical distancing protocols. Hand sanitizer appeared to be part of the retail experience in stores that we visited, and many store employees were wearing face masks. Cleaning seemed to be a constant activity, particularly on surfaces that consumers may have touched. Some retailers allowed customers to try on clothing in dressing rooms, though in some instances there were fewer of them. According to stylist Yana Brikker, the Zara and H&M stores in Bloor-Yorkville area have closed dressing rooms temporarily — customers are buying product to try on at home, and anything that isn’t’ wanted can be returned. Merchandise that is tried on or returned is being quarantined for between one and three days typically, depending on the retailer. On Wednesday, Ms. Brikker posted on Instagram that there was a substantial lineup in front of the newly reopened Winners store at 110 Bloor Street West.

As of Thursday, stores in enclosed malls without exterior entrances remained closed. Some open-air shopping centres such as the Toronto Premium Outlets have opened and are said to be getting decent foot traffic, though less than that of a typical May warm weather day.

The following is a set of photos with descriptions from tours of downtown Toronto by Retail Insider editors Craig Patterson and Jessica Finch.

PHOTO: CRAIG PATTERSON

Above: The Tiffany & Co. store on Bloor Street West had a lineup on Saturday. The Louis Vuitton store also had lines throughout the day. It appears that there was some pent-up demand and customers were treating themselves. One difference than before, we’ve been told — shoppers visiting stores are not just browsing, they’re looking to buy.

PHOTO: CRAIG PATTERSON

Above: The Dior flagship on Bloor Street West, which is the largest Dior store in North America, has customers waiting to get in. We noticed shopping bags carried on the street from many pricey brands including Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, and others.

PHOTO: CRAIG PATTERSON

Above: A lineup at the Sephora store on Bloor Street West. We noticed that some of the shoppers in line at some stores were also in line at other stores, and they were definitely buying. Two individuals in this photo were also spied shopping at both the Dior flagship as well as at the Dior accessory concession at the nearby Holt Renfrew flagship, for example.

PHOTO: CRAIG PATTERSON

Above: The Christian Louboutin flagship store on Yorkville Avenue was shut on Saturday — not all retailers have opened when permitted. In the photo below, the Versace store on Yorkville Avenue was closed. However Stone Island and Chanel were open, and there was even a lineup at one point to get into Chanel (though not when we took this photo).

PHOTO: CRAIG PATTERSON
PHOTO: CRAIG PATTERSON

Above: The Off-White store on Yorkville Avenue hadn’t opened yet on Saturday, nor had Cartier on Bloor Street in the photo below. Cartier was doing curbside pickup, however, and hand sanitizer and masks were seen in the foyer.

PHOTO: CRAIG PATTERSON
PHOTO: CRAIG PATTERSON
PHOTO: CRAIG PATTERSON

Above: Throughout the day, shoppers lined up to get into the Zara store on Bloor Street West. The store’s product was spaced out and the normally crowded retail space felt ‘roomy’. Dressing rooms are not open so customers may purchase items to try on at home and for that which isn’t wanted, returns are possible.

PHOTO: CRAIG PATTERSON

We snapped the photo above from the street-facing entrance to the Zara store on Bloor Street. The store also has an entrance underground from within the Holt Renfrew Centre — that entrance is shut for the time being until enclosed mall retailers are permitted to reopen.

PHOTO: CRAIG PATTERSON

Above: A surprisingly busy corner of Yonge Street and Bloor Street, which is considered to be an important crossroads for the city. Much of the foot traffic in downtown Toronto has been reliant on those arriving via public transit, and some are not yet comfortable taking buses or the subway at this time.

PHOTO: CRAIG PATTERSON

Above: inside the buzzing Holt Renfrew flagship store at 50 Bloor Street West. When one enters the store, they are asked to use the hand sanitizer dispenser. Masks are provided to those who would like to wear one. The store has implanted health and sanitization protocols as set out in an article in Retail Insider earlier this month.

Below: The photo is of the mezzanine footwear hall at Holt Renfrew. The ‘Café at Holts’ to the left has not yet reopened. The space is stunning and overlooks Bloor Street towards Eataly.

PHOTO: CRAIG PATTERSON
PHOTO: CRAIG PATTERSON

Above: A small line outside the Dior accessory concession at Holt Renfrew on Bloor Street. Floor decals indicate where customers should stand, though they appear to be somewhat ignored in the photo. Three of the customers in this photo were also in the photo of Sephora above, including one woman wearing a very expensive Gucci jacket and Dior boots.

Above: The Saks Fifth Avenue store at the southwest corner of Queen Street and Yonge Street reopened on Friday. As with Holts, Saks has implemented sanitization and health protocols to make customers feel safe. The adjacent Hudson’s Bay flagship store is also now open. The photo above was taken by Karim Rashwan, and the photo below was taken by Jessica Finch.

PHOTO: JESSICA FINCH

Above: Queen Street West in Toronto — stores are slowly starting to reopen, though surprisingly many are still closed at the time of publication. We are hoping that the shuttered stores are not an indication that some will never be reopening, though we’re aware that there are quite a few commercial spaces for lease/sublease at the moment.

PHOTO: JESSICA FINCH

Above: The Hunny Pot cannabis retail space at 202 Queen Street West has a small lineup to get in. Cannabis retailers in Ontario were deemed ‘non-essential’ temporarily by governments, and many have since reopened. The Hunny Pot was the first legal cannabis retailer to open in Ontario.

PHOTO: JESSICA FINCH

Above: A new LCBO liquor store has opened on Queen Street West — alcohol consumption in Toronto is said to have increased with the pandemic. Below is a space for lease by brokerage JLL on Queen Street West.

PHOTO: JESSICA FINCH
PHOTO: JESSICA FINCH

Above: Spanish fashion retailer Zara is clearly popular with Canadians. This is a lineup to get into the Zara store on Queen Street West. Zara has three stores in downtown Toronto, with the other being at CF Toronto Eaton Centre.

PHOTO: JESSICA FINCH

Above: We recently reported that Montreal-based footwear and accessory retailer Aldo had filed for and obtained bankruptcy protection. This is the store on Queen Street West in Toronto.

PHOTO: JESSICA FINCH

Above: Good news that fashion retailer Due West on Queen Street West has survived the shutdown and is open for the time being.

PHOTO: JESSICA FINCH

Above: A former Gap store location on Queen Street West in Toronto. The store shut before the pandemic as the site will be redeveloped. The Gap has been closing stores across Canada and more closures are said to be in the works, including a flagship on the ‘Mink Mile’.

Below: Several more photos of Queen Street West as businesses reopen.

PHOTO: JESSICA FINCH
PHOTO: JESSICA FINCH
PHOTO: JESSICA FINCH

Above: The newly reopened Urban Outfitters store on Queen Street West.

PHOTO: JESSICA FINCH

Above: The ‘cool’ section of West Queen West is seeing many retailers reopen, with food and beverage businesses to follow.

PHOTO: JESSICA FINCH
PHOTO: JESSICA FINCH

Above: A local bakery and cafe offers takeout service through a window until it is permitted to fully reopen.

Anthropologie on Queen Street West (Photo: Jessica Finch)

Above: The unique Anthropologie store, located in an old church building, is welcoming guests with enhanced cleaning protocols, hygiene, and spacing limits.

PHOTO: JESSICA FINCH
PHOTO: JESSICA FINCH

In the coming days, more stores will open in downtown Toronto and when permitted, restaurants and other foodservice/drink businesses will also reopen. Some businesses will unfortunately not reopen and given the increased costs of doing business, coupled with an expected decrease in foot traffic, more businesses are expected to go under in the coming weeks and months.

Thank you for viewing our short tour of Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville and Queen Street West areas.

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