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Hudson’s Bay Prepares to Launch Online Marketplace: Interview with President Iain Nairn

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Iconic Canadian retailer Hudson’s Bay will soon be launching a new online marketplace on thebay.com which will bring more than 500 new sellers to the website by the end of 2021 and introduce new and “significantly-expanded” category offerings.

Those offerings include sports and recreation, tech, pets, health and wellness as well as vintage designer handbags and watches.

Iain Nairn

“As part of our digital-first strategy, the launch of Marketplace catapults Hudson’s Bay to the forefront of e-commerce in Canada,” said Iain Nairn, President and CEO of Hudson’s Bay. “We now have the ability to add millions of products to our offering, quickly adapting to customer demand. The response from the seller community has been extraordinarily positive as more and more brands seek to join this modern and convenient shopping experience.

“The consumer’s changing. I think that’s the critical thing. We’re a customer first business and we’re really in touch with our customer and their changing behaviour. We want to address that behaviour. We’ve always been there as being the curator of premium product for the Canadian consumer. And as the world has moved to digital, I think they look to us to do that job for them.

“So we think becoming more digital first and actually launching the Marketplace allows us to bring to the customer a much wider repertoire of really curated brands.”

The technical side of the Marketplace launch is being supported by Mirakl.

Nairn said the retailer has been “completely inundated with sellers” which demonstrates that The Bay has such a great brand and is such a strong access point to the Canadian consumer.

“We’re positioned in that style and quality space that is a natural fit that sellers can see having access to a new traffic flow,” said Nairn.

Supported by Mirakl’s best-in-class marketplace solution, Hudson’s Bay can react to consumer trends, expand its assortment and onboard quality sellers from around the world in a matter of days, versus weeks or months needed with a traditional e-commerce model, offering critical scalability at a time when online shopping has more than doubled in Canada over the past year.

Nairn said the strategy for the Marketplace was being developed pre-COVID-19. In April, the retailer put its new online platform in place. That allowed the company to consider where it could go next in the digital space.

As it looked at its opportunities and what was happening with consumers, the idea of the Marketplace was the next logical step for the retailer.

Nairn said the company has almost doubled its sales online this year from a penetration point of view, getting close to 40 percent. The home category has been very strong this year. The beauty business has almost tripled online this year.

“Adding this new Marketplace will allow us to both strengthen our existing categories that we’re dominant in but then also add new categories. The customer is looking for a one-stop shop. And I think if Hudson’s Bay can link the strengths of its loyalty program, which we also relaunched during 2020, with a wider choice then we think we can really provide the customer with that style and quality at a really premium level, really well curated, to shop with us all the time,” said Nairn, adding that there’s a confidence and trust level with consumers because of Hudson’s Bay being a venerable business with a great heritage.

“Our digital business is our best kept secret but yet we’re the fifth largest ecomm business in Canada. We have 220 million people visit our site per annum. For instance, this year we expect to do over a billion dollars. We have a great business and we think we can really expand that exponentially with the introduction of Marketplace.

“We hold at the moment about 1,700 brands on our site. We will go live with another 300 brands and those 300 brands will be about 150 sellers. We have 1,700 sellers in our pipeline who have contacted us interested in going on our site. So we think this is just the beginning. We really think this is a transformational point to get to the front of the queue in terms of the leaders in Canada as being Canada’s largest premium marketplace.

“For small businesses, which have really unique products, this is a great place for them to have access to our emailable database of 5.7 million loyalty customers. It’s really great for Canadian brands.”

In August 2020, the company announced it was making it easier than ever for Canadians to earn rewards on the products they love with an updated and improved Hudson’s Bay Rewards Program. The refreshed program modernized its reward offerings to ensure a frictionless, omni-channel experience, from beginning to end.

Rewards services were integrated directly into e-commerce with the company’s new fully-digital platform.

Adrien Nussenbaum, co-founder and U.S. CEO, Mirakl, said Hudson’s Bay is creating an expanded, seamless shopping experience that customers will love with the new Marketplace.

“Mirakl is proud to support Hudson’s Bay in this new and innovative growth plan that will benefit millions of Canadian shoppers,” he said.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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