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In Pictures: The Final Days of Holt Renfrew in Edmonton [Photo Essay]

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Holt Renfrew closed its Edmonton store on Saturday January 11th. The store was located at Manulife Place, spanning two retail levels. The Manulife Place store opened in 1982 after relocating from a former space at 10336 Jasper Avenue that opened in 1950.

Retail Insider wrote an extensive feature article on the store’s closure today, and what it means for downtown Edmonton.

Edmonton correspondent Christopher Lui took photos of the Edmonton Holt Renfrew store during the afternoon of Thursday, January 9, 2020, and the following is a photo essay showcasing the nearly empty store and what was once there. Scroll down for photos — each photo has a description below it describing what is there.

An exterior shot of the store on a very chilly sunny day in Edmonton (January 9, 2020)

An exterior shot of the store on a very chilly sunny day in Edmonton (January 9, 2020). Holt Renfrew was located in the Manulife Place shopping complex at 10180 101 Street. The store opened in 1982 and prior to that, Holts occupied a much smaller storefront at 10336 Jasper Avenue. Thank you Christopher Lui for braving the cold to take this photo.

The main floor beauty hall, above, at Holt Renfrew in Edmonton on January 9. In years past, handbags also occupied part of the space, including small counters for brands including Louis Vuitton and Fendi. Chanel cosmetics exited Edmonton’s Holt Renfrew store several years ago — Chanel occupied a space next to the revolving doors in this photo where Valmont was most recently located.

Above is a photo of the former women’s shoe department at Holt Renfrew in Edmonton. The small space, with an entrance into the foyer of Manulife Place, was once home to Browns Shoes. In the late 1990’s, the space housed a combined Gucci/Fendi boutique and in 1992, the space was a full-sized Gucci accessory/bag/shoe boutique. Window displays promoted ‘the art of the scarf’ and the environment was elegant. As a teenager in 1992, Retail Insider’s founder spied a crocodile Gucci handbag priced at a whopping $12,000 — it’s rather unlikely that the bag sold in the Edmonton market, and was likely relocated to the Toronto Bloor Street, Montreal or Vancouver Holt Renfrew store for final sale. Interestingly, the Gucci area in Edmonton was much larger than what was at Holt Renfrew in Vancouver at the time.

Most recently, in the photo above, this area housed women’s bags and accessories. In years past, the right-hand side of this photo housed a Tiffany & Co. boutique before it relocated to West Edmonton Mall in 2013. Louis Vuitton once occupied the area facing the windows prior to relocating to a larger boutique space more than a decade ago. In the 1990’s, this windowed area housed women’s contemporary fashions including a boutique for French fashion brand ‘Mondi’.

The former accessory area, above, looking towards the small men’s department. Holts expanded its store about 20 years ago to enlarge the men’s department, which had fewer designers than were found in most other Holt Renfrew stores in Canada.

Another photo taken from within the men’s department at Holt Renfrew in Edmonton on Thursday, January 9th. Shoppers were still able to buy a few items on the shelves, though most of the store was already empty prior to closing on Saturday.

The men’s footwear area on Thursday January 9th. A few pairs of shoes remained. Even when the store was open in years past, the selection was often quite limited. Browns Shoes once occupied a separate men’s footwear area in the store prior to the men’s department being renovated and expanded in the early 2000’s. Browns parted ways with Holt Renfrew in 2007 — Holts decided to run its own footwear departments and the Browns partnership dissolved as a result.

The Louis Vuitton boutique, above, shuttered in early January. Louis Vuitton opened a 4,500 square foot store at West Edmonton Mall in June of 2019. Vuitton was said to be responsible for more than a half of all retail sales in the Holt Renfrew space, and its planned exit helped prompt Holt Renfrew to shut the Edmonton store.

Looking down from the central stairway to the former main floor accessory area last week.

A central stairway in the photo above leads to the second floor of the former Holt Renfrew store in Edmonton. Prior to its closing, Edmonton’s Holt Renfrew store had few luxury brands stocked in-store — Burberry, Hugo Boss, and Max Mara were considered to be among the top brands. In the 1990’s, the Edmonton Holt Renfrew store had boutique areas for women’s brands such as Donna Karan and Calvin Klein when both were leading designer sportswear brands.

The above photo is of the elevator banks on the second level of Holt Renfrew in Edmonton. Until the early 2000’s, elevators were the only option for customers to move between the first and second levels of the Holt Renfrew store. It was the only multi-level Holt Renfrew store in the chain to not have either stairs or an escalator connecting two levels.

The above space most recently housed a women’s ‘Weekend by Max Mara’ department on the store’s second level.

A customer service area in the photo above was located behind a women’s fashion area which included offices and helpful staff. In years past, some customers would come by to pick up the latest edition of Holt Renfrew’s magazine that was called ‘Point of View’.

Above is another photo of the second level women’s department prior to the closure of Holt Renfrew in Edmonton on Saturday.

Burberry operated a concession space on the second floor of Holt Renfrew in Edmonton. It had relocated from the spot where this photo was taken, which is next to the store’s elevator banks. Burberry was said to have been considering pulling out of Edmonton’s Holt Renfrew well before its closure was announced last year.

Above is another photo of the women’s fashion area on the second floor. To the right was the ‘Holts Cafe’ and a doorway just to the left led to the store’s public washrooms.

Above is a photo of the ‘Holts Cafe’ on the second floor of the store. The restaurant is where chef Corbin Tomaszeski perfected his craft before moving to Toronto and becoming better known. The restaurant was frequented by shoppers and workers in the downtown core, and was a favourite amongst some lawyers. In the year 2000, a party was held here where free alcohol flowed and many guests became intoxicated. Retail sales were said to have seen a boost that day as a result.

In the earlier 2000’s, Edmonton was one of only three Holt Renfrew stores to feature an in-store restaurant. Holt Renfrew’s Bloor Street flagship in Toronto and the Montreal flagship also featured restaurants.

Above is a photo facing towards the main floor mall entrance into the men’s department. The men’s department, as seen in this photo, was made possible by an expansion in the early 2000’s. Prior to the expansion, an upscale children’s fashion store occupied the space.

Another main-floor entrance into Holt Renfrew from within Manulife Place. This was the main men’s floor entrance for years prior to the men’s department expansion.

A final view of the main floor entrance to Holt Renfrew’s former women’s shoes department in Edmonton’s Manulife Place. As mentioned above, in the 1990’s the space once housed a dedicated Gucci boutique, which was the largest of any Holt Renfrew store at the time.

Above is the Manulife Place-facing second-level entrance to Holt Renfrew in Edmonton. Holts’ second floor only had one mall-facing entrance, while the main floor had three interior entrances plus one doorway onto the street.

Above is a goodbye message on a window at Holt Renfrew in Edmonton. It’s the end of a 70 year run for the Holt Renfrew chain in the city.

Holt Renfrew continues to operate stores in Canada. Locations include a 190,000 square foot store at CF Pacific Centre in Vancouver, a 150,000 square foot store in downtown Calgary, a 190,000 square foot flagship at 50 Bloor Street West in Toronto, a 16,500 square foot men’s store at 100 Bloor Street West, a 130,000 square foot store at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre, a 140,000 square foot store at Square One in Mississauga, and a soon-to-be-completed 250,000 square foot Holt Renfrew Ogilvy in Montreal at 1307 Ste-Catherine Street. A 75,000 square foot Montreal store at 1300 Sherbrooke Street West will close in March of this year when Holt Renfrew Ogilvy is completed.

In January of 2015, Holts closed a 36,000 square foot store in downtown Ottawa at 240 Sparks Street, a 33,000 square foot store at Place Ste-Foy in Quebec City, as well as a 3,000 square foot ‘shopping suite’ at Portage Place in downtown Winnipeg. At one time, the company had nearly 30 smaller stores across Canada.

Thank you again Christopher Lui for taking these photos for Retail Insider on Thursday, January 9th, 2020.

[Click here to read our feature story from today on Holt Renfrew exiting Edmonton]

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd.

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