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BRIEF: FREYWILLE Exits Canada, All Restaurants Shut at Aura at College Park

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1
FREYWILLE Shuts Only North American Storefront in Vancouver

Exterior of shuttered Frey Wille store in Vancouver. Photo: Gaurav Mehra
Exterior of shuttered Frey Wille store in Vancouver. Photo: Gaurav Mehra

Austrian luxury brand FreyWille, known for its colourful enamel jewellery and silk scarves, has shuttered its only remaining standalone store in North America. It was located in Vancouver at 511 Howe Street and its closure is part of a reduction of the brand’s store count amid intense competition.

Vancouver’s FREYWILLE location opened in September of 2010 in a small retail space about a block north of Holt Renfrew’s Vancouver flagship. At the time it was expected that the stretch of Howe Street between Holt Renfrew and West Hastings Street would become a ‘luxury zone’ for retailers. Previous tenants in the immediate area included Alfred Dunhill, Hugo Boss, and Leone. Cartier continues to operate at 456 Howe Street, though the store will be relocating to 755 Burrard Street following the relocation of a Hermes store in the fall of 2019.

In the summer of 2014, the FREYWILLE store experienced something bizarre — more than once, a cyclist vandalized the store’s doorway by using a miniature blow torch to shatter the glass. Nothing was stolen according to a store manager.

Based in Vienna, Austria, FREYWILLE was founded in 1951 and is known for its colourful designs based on the works of 19th and 20th century artists. The company has expanded from jewellery and scarves to include a line of watches as well as handbags, belts, ties, cuff links and pens. The company continues to operate stores with a focus on Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, according to its website. FREYWILLE also once operated stores in New York City and Beverly Hills.

Exterior south west corner of Aura centre where three restaurants are closing. Photo: Dustin Fuhs
Exterior south west corner of Aura at College Park where three restaurants have now closed. Photo: Dustin Fuhs

2
Three Downtown Toronto Restaurants Shutter at Aura at Yonge & Gerrard Streets

SIR Royalty Income Fund announced that as of February 9 it will permanently close three restaurants located at the corner of Yonge and Gerrard in downtown Toronto in the commercial podium of Aura at College Park. The three restaurants to be closed include a Scaddabush Italian Kitchen & Bar, Reds Midtown Tavern, and a Duke’s Refresher & Bar. The Scaddabush and Reds locations are both part of the Royalty Pool.

SIR said in a press release that its operating environment has changed immensely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put stress on the business. Landlord Canderel presented the SIR with what it said is an unexpected and mutually beneficial opportunity to vacate these properties as the landlord had a unique opportunity to lease the space to another tenant for a non-restaurant purpose — some are speculating that a drug store could end up being part of the mix.

Given the current operating environment and uncertain future prospects, SIR decided to exercise this option and return the property to the landlord. In the press release, it was explained that the net proceeds from the termination agreement will be used to reduce the value of SIR’s outstanding revolving loan, and SIR will have no further obligations, including for accrued and unpaid rent as well as future rent, at these closed locations.

“We want to thank our valued guests and team members for their loyalty and support during these unprecedented times. To the local community and all our valued partners, we sincerely thank you for the last 10 years and we will miss you. While we may not gather at this location again, you can still find a Scaddabush at 200 Front Street and numerous other locations throughout the GTA; our downtown Reds at 77 Adelaide Street and our Reds location at the Square One shopping mall. Our other Duke’s location is nearby at 73 Front Street, next to the St. Lawrence Market, which will also accommodate our pop-up Renegade Chicken kitchen that formerly operated at Duke’s Gerrard,” said Peter Fowler, CEO of SIR Corp.

Toronto has been subjected to expanded lockdowns since late 2020 which have hit the restaurant sector hard. When restaurants open again this spring, capacity limits and cautious consumers will likely result in a slow return which could see many restaurants remain unprofitable for the foreseeable future. At the same time, downtown Toronto lacks the thousands of visitors and tourists it enjoyed prior to the pandemic with no end to a reduction in foot traffic in the area.

3
Free Video Chat Tool Helps Local Businesses Survive Lockdown

Photo: OpenTable

Small to mid-sized retailers struggling to stay in business because of COVID-19 lockdown measures have been offered a free digital lifeline. Kognitive Tech Inc. is offering its video chat tool, called Optimy for free until April 30 to help retailers stay alive online, while their physical locations remain closed or severely restricted.

The offer comes on the heels of a recent survey from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) which said 181,000 businesses across Canada will likely close permanently due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The worst-case scenario would see up to 222,000 companies closing their stores, putting a staggering 2.9 million jobs at risk, CFIB reported.

“Optimy has the potential to generate tens of millions of dollars in new revenue for small retail businesses that are forced to limit or even close their physical store locations. It’s a much-needed digital tool for businesses struggling to survive amidst the pandemic,” says CEO of Kognitive Tech, Josh Singer. “Businesses with limited online capabilities can now personally connect with customers in a way that is not possible by phone or through conventional chat app features,” he added.

Optimy, which can be installed and up and running in 15 minutes on a retailer’s website, is worth $3,750 per retailer when implementation costs and monthly fees are included. There are no added costs or commitments for retailers who accept the free offer.

“We are just one small business trying to help other businesses stay open, which is why we have committed almost $2 million in software and training costs to make this happen,” Singer said.

Optimy is ideal for retailers who sell complex products that require the high-touch expertise of salespeople to help customers navigate their options and to choose the right products. The video chat function lets businesses interact with customers and sell products without the need for a fully functioning e-commerce website. The required minimum is a basic landing page and Optimy. Retailers will not incur additional costs because no new processes or software are required.

It is the first eCommerce plug-in in Canada that provides a live video chat within a customer’s web browser that is 100% private and secure.

To learn more visit www.optimy.ai

4
OpenTable Launches Takeout in Canada To Support Restaurants Amid COVID-19 Restrictions

Advertisement for Volkswagen Canada’s ‘The Carbon Neutral Net’ Campaign. Photo: Volkswagen Canada

OpenTable, the world’s leading provider of online restaurant reservations and part of Booking Holdings Inc., is launching a Takeout ordering feature to support Canadian restaurants though prolonged restrictions in time to help food lovers dine-in this Valentine’s Day. Select Canadian restaurants available for reservations on OpenTable can now offer take out ordering through the platform.

OpenTable’s Takeout feature is available to Canadian restaurants free of charge until April 1st, 2021 as part of the reservation platform’s commitment to supporting the industry. In 2020 OpenTable also launched Open Door, which allows restaurants to access its network and restaurant platform with no subscription or cover fees until March 2021. OpenTable saw 75 million covers driven through its Open Door relief pricing program in 2020.

According to a recent OpenTable survey, 68% of Canadians want to do something special for Valentine’s Day, however 58% indicate that they need help figuring out how to elevate the occasion. As dining establishments across the country face ongoing restrictions due to the pandemic, OpenTable’s Takeout feature connects people who enjoy dining out with curated menus and offerings from local restaurants, giving customers more ways to make Valentine’s Day feel special.

“Romance and dining are inextricably linked and Valentine’s Day is typically the busiest day of the year for Canadian restaurants. Restaurants may be facing restrictions but they can still rise to the occasion and help diners make this day exceptional,” says Matt Davis, OpenTable Canada. “We’ve partnered with restaurants across the country to create unique at-home Valentine’s Day dining experiences through our Takeout feature, to inspire Canadians to make the most of the romantic occasion.”

For even more from OpenTable click here.

5
Volkswagen Canada Launches an Innovative Digital Sustainability Campaign

Volkswagen Group is ready to hit the road with a worldwide journey toward sustainability — starting with a $50 billion investment into e-mobility efforts, and the launch of the company’s new electric ID.4. In collaboration with TYPE1, Volkswagen Canada has launched The Carbon-Neutral Net to educate Canadians about sustainability in the digital world. In doing so, they’ve created a more sustainable browsing experience that reduced electric vehicle web pages to little more than black and white text — even the images — that has significantly lowered the amount of embedded data.

What is a Digital Carbon Footprint?

73% of Canadians are unaware that online activity has a carbon footprint, especially the internet, which is determined in part by the amount of data embedded in web pages. Search queries, streamed videos and cloud computing are executed billions of times a day, increasing the global demand for energy and as a result, increasing carbon emissions. Surprisingly, the internet accounts for around 4% of global CO2 emissions — the same as the airline industry. While 72% of Canadians were surprised to learn that the internet accounts for as much CO2 as the airline industry, 81% said they wanted to try to reduce their Digital Carbon Footprint. How is this possible? By reducing the amount of data embedded in online media, which can then lower the amount of CO2 produced and reduce our digital carbon footprint.

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