Los Angeles-based fast fashion retailer Forever 21 will make its return to Canada this year with physical stores after shuttering all locations as part of a bankruptcy filing in 2019. Toronto-based YM Inc. is leading the expansion after establishing a partnership last year that included announcing a new Forever 21 e-commerce site for the Canadian market.
YM Inc. acquired many of Forever 21’s leases after the retailer exited Canada. YM subsequently opened stores under various banners in the former Forever 21 locations including Urban Planet, Urban Behaviour and Stitches. Many of the Forever 21 stores saw few changes to the retail spaces following the shuttering of the original chain, possibly in anticipation of re-introducing the Forever 21 banner to the Canadian market. Now some of the former Forever 21 locations will be converted back to the original banner as the brand again re-enters Canada.
It’s not yet clear how many Forever 21 locations that YM will open in Canada, though locations are confirmed already for Metropolis at Metrotown near Vancouver, as well as Devonshire Mall in Windsor, Ontario. The Windsor store will be located in a space most recently branded as Urban Behaviour.
YM had been in negotiations to lease the former 17,000 square foot Gap store space at 60 Bloor Street West (corner of Bay Street) and the deal is said to have ultimately not gone through.
Forever 21 closed all of its 44 Canadian stores in November of 2019 after its US-based parent company filed for bankruptcy. In total, about 900,000 square feet was vacated, with much of it being scooped up by YM Inc. as temporary leases for its own banners.
YM Inc. launched Forever 21’s Canadian e-commerce website in early 2020. Forever 21 partnered with cross-border e-commerce solutions provider Global-e to launch the international offering, which included localized websites for the Canadian market as well as sites for Asia, Asia/Pacific, and Latin America.
YM Inc. owns several fashion retail banners in Canada including Urban Planet, Urban Behaviour, Sirens, Bluenotes, Suzy Shier, Stitches, West 49, and Amnesia. In 2019 Retail Insider reported that YM was bringing the Aéropostale retail banner back into the Canadian market after the US brand’s bankruptcy in 2016. YM Inc. was founded in 1975 with the opening of a Stitches store in downtown Toronto and the company has since grown rapidly with more than 650 stores across its banners and thousands of employees.
Forever 21’s re-launch in Canada comes at a time of intense competition amongst fashion retailers with various fast-fashion and value-priced retailers continuing to operate within Canada. Swedish fast-fashion retailer H&M had been opening stores yearly in Canada before the pandemic in an effort to gain market share, as has Spanish chain Zara and Japanese retailer Uniqlo. At the same time, value-priced retailers such as TJX Group’s Winners and Marshalls have been expanding further into Canada, offering designer product at discounted prices.