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Uniqlo Opens Massive Downtown Montreal Flagship as it Enters the Quebec Market [Photos]

Japanese fashion retailer Uniqlo has opened its first Montreal store, and it’s impressive. It is the largest Uniqlo store in Canada and features several firsts in this country. The store is hoped to give an injection into downtown Montreal’s retail which has struggled due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as because of extensive construction to revitalize Ste-Catherine Street West.

Located at the recently overhauled Montreal Eaton Centre, the Uniqlo flagship spans more than 40,000 square feet over two levels with about 32,000 square feet dedicated to retail space. The store also features a children’s reading area with curated books from local Montreal bookstores and a collaborative pop-up space which will initially feature a flower shop display where customers can shop from Montreal floral design studio, Bell Jar Botanicals, until November 15th.

MONTREAL’S UNIQLO STORE IS FIRST CANADIAN STORE WITH STREET-FACING ENTRANCE

It is the first Uniqlo store in Canada to feature a street-facing entrance, with the store’s facade facing both onto Ste-Catherine Street as well as Boulevard Robert-Bourassa. In total, the store has five access points — two from the street, one from the main level of the Montreal Eaton Centre, one on the second, and an entrance from within the Time Out food hall.

The Montreal Uniqlo store features an expansive range of apparel for men, women, and children. The store also features a small selection of home goods including bedding which isn’t available at other Uniqlo stores in Canada. The Montreal store is the second in Canada to feature at UT department featuring graphic printed t-shirts that often sell-out quickly.

The store also has something of an eco-focus including RE.UNIQLO, an initiative to recycle used garments and redistribute to those in need.

“We are excited to welcome Montrealers to our new store, to not only enjoy our high quality and functional LifeWear apparel, but to also experience community collaborated areas that are exclusive to this UNIQLO store and not in any of our other stores in Canada,” said Yuichiro Kaneko, CEO of UNIQLO Canada. “With a continuous demand for UNIQLO from our customers, we are delighted to make LifeWear more accessible to Canadians as we continue adapting to new lifestyles.”

The LifeWear line is described as meeting “the needs of everyone’s daily lifestyles to make their everyday life better and more comfortable. Whether that is to protect you against a cold winter wind, keep you dry on a rainy day or to look smart for an important occasion, LifeWear is simple, high-quality, everyday clothing with a practical sense of beauty that is always evolving. LifeWear is available in a variety of colours and styles for people of all ages.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic Uniqlo has implemented health and safety protection measures including physical distancing while shopping, frequent cleaning of high-traffic areas in front and back of house, hand-sanitizing stations which are located at the entrance of the store and at cash registers, and acrylic barriers at checkout counters and fitting room counters. All staff have their temperatures taken daily and are required to wear personal protective equipment. All customers are also required to wear a face coverings and to have temperatures taken before entering the store as well — this now appears to be a practice at all Uniqlo stores in Canada.

NEW UNIQLO STORE SET TO INJECT SOME LIFE INTO DOWNTOWN MONTREAL AFTER COVID-19 PANDEMIC

It is hoped that Uniqlo will give a needed injection to downtown Montreal, which has seen retail sales plummet amid the pandemic as well as construction to Ste-Catherine Street. Driving downtown and parking is said to be challenging and some businesses are saying that business is down as much as 90%. A report by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec on Thursday of last week noted that 26% of downtown Montreal’s businesses have closed temporarily or permanently, and that number could grow. Montreal is planning on offering free weekend parking downtown for the rest of the year to bring shoppers back at a critical time, especially given that construction in downtown Montreal is expected to be ongoing for years.

EXTERIOR OF NEW UNIQLO STORE IN THE OVERHAULED MONTREAL EATON CENTRE. PHOTO: MAXIME FRECHETTE

The Montreal Eaton Centre has seen an overhaul that includes a new Time Out Market food hall as well as new Samsung, Sephora, Pandora, and Ernest storefronts among others. Browns Shoes will open a two-level B2 flagship at Montreal Eaton Centre next year. The first downtown Decathlon store in Canada opened at Montreal Eaton Centre in the fall of 2019.

Uniqlo has been expanding its Canadian operations since its first store opened almost four years ago in Toronto. Jeff Berkowitz of Aurora Realty Consultants represents Uniqlo as broker in Canada and he negotiated all of Uniqlo’s store leases in Canada.

In September of 2016, Uniqlo’s first store in Canada opened at CF Toronto Eaton Centre in Toronto. The store spans nearly 33,000 square feet over two floors. Last year the store added a 4,500-square-foot mezzanine space to house a first-in-Canada ’UT’ shop-in-store to showcase the retailer’s graphic t-shirt collection.

A second Uniqlo store opened in October of 2016 at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre, also considered to be a flagship store in terms of size and presence with more than 30,000 square feet over two levels. Following that opening, Uniqlo began to expand further into the Greater Toronto Area as well as into the Vancouver market for the first time.

The Greater Toronto area is now home to Uniqlo stores in Oshawa Centre east of Toronto, Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket, CF Markville in Markham, Square One in Mississauga, Vaughan Mills near Toronto. Last fall a pop-up opened at First Canadian Place in Toronto’s Financial District which has been decimated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In British Columbia, Uniqlo’s first store  opened in October of 2017 at Metropolis at Metrotown in Burnaby, in a 20,630-square-foot, two-level space. That was followed by the opening of a 17,900-square-foot location at Guildford Town Centre in Surrey in March of 2018, and then stores at CF Richmond Centre in Richmond and Coquitlam Centre in Coquitlam.

Uniqlo is noticeably absent from downtown Vancouver and a location is expected to be announced when a lease is finalized. Some have speculated that Uniqlo could replace the Victoria’s Secret flagship store at the north-east corner of Robson and Burrard Streets.

Uniqlo expanded beyond the Toronto and Vancouver markets in the fall of 2019 when it opened its first store in Alberta at West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton. More stores in the Edmonton and Calgary markets are expected with Calgary’s CF Chinook Centre expected to be a prime target, among others.

The Montreal area is Uniqlo’s fourth major market to see Canadian stores which could eventually number in the dozens if all goes as planned. Sources say that the next location for Uniqlo in Quebec will be at the CF Carrefour Laval shopping centre near Montreal.

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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