Minimalist Japanese retailer Muji has opened its second largest Canadian store at the Guildford Town Centre in Surrey near Vancouver. It is now the largest Muji store in British Columbia, bigger than the downtown Vancouver Muji store on Robson Street which became the largest outside of Asia when it opened in 2017.
The 15,890-square-foot Guildford Town Centre Muji store is the first suburban location in Canada to span two levels. The first floor spans 8,387 square feet according to lease plans, with the second level encompassing 7,512 square feet. Escalators connect the two levels. The store’s design is similar to other Muji stores in Canada, featuring an exposed ceiling and natural wood accents throughout. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the store’s layout is more spacious than expected.
Physical distancing is encouraged with the store’s capacity set at 50 people. Hand sanitizer is available in the store for all customers. Face masks are encouraged though not required. Returned merchandise will be quarantined for three days before returning to the sales floor. According to a sign in the store, cash will not be accepted while credit and debit cards can be used for payment.
The main floor of the Guildford Muji store includes departments for stationery, health & beauty, kitchen & tableware, laundry/cleaning, storage, and furnishings for the living room and bedroom. Upstairs is women’s wear, men’s wear, children’s wear, accessories, bags & shoes, ‘inner wear’, and travel goods. The second level also includes Muji’s embroidery service and fabric print service. The Muji ‘aroma bar’ is temporarily not available, according to the company, as a safety measure due to COVID-19.
CBRE Vancouver‘s office, including Martin Moriarty and Mario Negris, were involved in negotiating the Guildford lease deal with landlord Ivanhoé Cambridge. The duo also negotiated the lease deals for Muji’s other four stores in British Columbia. Brokerage CBRE has been involved with Muji’s negotiations across Canada, led by Arlin Markowitz, Senior Vice President of CBRE’s Downtown Toronto Urban Retail Team.
Muji’s opening is good news at a challenging time. In March, businesses deemed ‘non-essential’ were forced to close in British Columbia as well as across Canada. Stores have begun to open slowly — last month mall-based stores were permitted to reopen in British Columbia, and shoppers are starting to come back. The shutdown hit the bottom line for most businesses and some have filed for bankruptcy protection and some have closed entirely.
The largest Muji store in Canada is located in downtown Toronto at the Atrium complex on the corner of Yonge Street and Dundas Street West. It was also the first Muji location in Canada when it opened in 2014 — the 4,400-square-foot store was expanded to an impressive 20,000 square feet over two levels in November of 2018, making it the largest Muji location outside of Asia. Prior to that, the downtown Vancouver Muji store, measuring more than 14,500 square feet, held the title for the largest Muji store outside of Asia.
Muji now operates nine stores in Canada. Four of those are in the Vancouver area, including the Robson Street flagship that opened in December of 2017, a Metropolis at Metrotown location which expanded in 2018 to 12,305 square feet, a store at CF Richmond Centre which expanded to 9,212 square feet in February of 2019, and the new Guildford Town Centre store which is the largest of them all. In the Greater Toronto Area, Muji operates its massive downtown Toronto flagship store as well as a 5,225-square-foot store at Mississauga’s Square One (opened in November of 2015), a 6,375-square-foot store at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre (opened in October of 2016), a 6,000-square-foot space at CF Markville which opened in the summer of 2017, and a store at Scarborough Town Centre, measuring about 6,800 square feet which opened in March of 2018.
In 2018, Muji was re-evaluating its Canadian operations as it looked to open larger stores. That was according to Masaaki Kanai, Chairman of parent company Ryohin Keikaku, who told us in an interview in 2018 that Muji is not only looking at opening substantially larger stores, but that it is also considering opening grocery stores, hotels, designing public realm, and even getting into residential development. A Muji hotel location was rumoured to be part of a new development on Bloor Street in Toronto, though no formal announcements have been made.
Muji was also said to be looking at the Montreal, Edmonton, and Calgary markets to open stores. No announcements have been made yet, though landlords had confirmed that they were having conversations last year.
COVID-19 has changed the retail industry at least for the time being, and expansion plans for some brands are said to have been put on hold. We’ll continue to follow Muji’s expansion in the Canadian market, which could include new units as well as possible expansions of some existing units in Ontario.