UK fast-fashion brand Topshop and Topman will be exiting all Hudson’s Bay stores in the fall after a 10 year run in Canada. The move comes after the administration filing of Topshop in the UK and its subsequent acquisition by ASOS which was finalized in February. All Topshop and Topman retail spaces in Canada will be shuttered by September 30, 2021 as a result.
Most employees in the Canadian locations will be offered jobs elsewhere according to Hudson’s Bay. “We have been able to secure transfer opportunities within Hudson’s Bay for the majority of impacted associates,” the retailer said in a statement.
Amid a flurry of press, the Hudson’s Bay Company announced in the spring of 2011 that it had secured the franchise rights to open Topshop and Topman shop-in-stores in Canada as well as standalone storefronts. A subsequent roll-out of shop-in-stores was launched as part of an effort to drive foot traffic into Hudson’s Bay department stores.
Topshop opened its first Canadian shop-in-store in 2010 temporarily at retailer Jonathan and Olivia on Ossington Avenue in Toronto. Following the partnership announcement with HBC, the first large Topshop/Topman storefront in Canada opened in Hudson’s Bay at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre in October of 2011, spanning about 15,000 square feet over two levels. A rollout of larger Topshop stores followed for several years in major markets. The rollout continued with some Bay stores seeing separate smaller Topshop and Topman department areas added rather than fully branded shop-in-stores.
A substantial amount of space in some Hudson’s Bay stores will have to be repurposed as a result of the Topshop/Topman closures this fall. The largest of the spaces is in Vancouver, which in October of 2012 saw the opening of a 33,000 square foot combined Topshop/Topman space on the concourse level of the historic downtown Vancouver Bay flagship store. Millions of dollars was invested to create a new street front entrance on Granville Street for Topshop as well as new escalators leading downstairs from the street. The Vancouver Topshop was the largest international location globally for the retailer when it opened at the time.
A flurry of construction activity will be seen in malls across the country this fall/winter following the closures of Topshop and Topman. At Yorkdale in Toronto, Topshop and Topman occupy prominent frontage in the mall that includes black branded walls and display windows created especially for the franchised shop-in-store. Similar large storefronts at Square One in Mississauga and CF Chinook Centre in Calgary will also have to be repurposed following Topshop’s exit.
In 2011, then CEO Bonnie Brooks said that there were plans for about 50 Topshop locations in Canada as part of a signifiant shakeup for Hudson’s Bay stores in Canada. Brooks was hired by HBC owner Richard Baker to increase sales in Bay stores which included new retail partnerships while at the same time dropping hundreds of underperforming brands. Topshop alone was expected to increase sales in Bay stores by about 10%. Baker said at the time that Topshop was expected to sell about $700 a square foot in its spaces, an impressive number considering that sales at most Bay stores were less than $200 per square foot in most departments.
Other partners added to Bay stores at around the same time included Kleinfeld Bridal at the Queen Street Bay flagship, restaurants such as Bannock, a revamp/expansion of luxury fashion department ‘The Room’ in Toronto and Vancouver, and the addition of Burberry and Coach shop-in-stores among other initiatives. Hudson’s Bay was also said to be in talks with Japanese fast fashion retailer Uniqlo to open in Bay stores as well as upscale US-based department store Bloomingdales’s, and neither partnership materialized. Baker did manage to acquire US luxury retailer Saks Fifth Avenue which opened two Toronto stores in 2016 as well as a location in Calgary about two years later.
Topshop started as a brand extension of the Peter Robinson department store chain in London in 1964 and sold women’s fashions by young British designers such as Mary Quant and Stirling Cooper. Topshop was spun off as its own store and in 1978, the men’s division called Topman was also launched. Topshop owner Arcadia Group went into administration (bankruptcy protection) in November of 2020 and ASOS acquired Topshop in February of this year. ASOS said that it was planning on closing all of Topshop/Topman’s stores while taking the brand online through ASOS’ channels.
Prior to the bankruptcy, Topshop/Topman operated over 500 stores globally with about 300 of those being located in the UK. Topshop entered the US market in 2007 and had 11 large flagship stores in major cities. In the spring of 2019, the US division filed for bankruptcy and all of its stores subsequently shuttered.
A source told Retail Insider that Hudson’s Bay was unable to come to an agreement with ASOS which led to Topshop’s pulling out of Canada’s Hudson’s Bay stores. Another source told Retail Insider that ASOS may offer Nordstrom the opportunity to carry the Topshop and Topman lines in its Canadian stores as is the case currently in the United States. We were not able to confirm this information by press time.
Retail Insider reached out to the Hudson’s Bay Company for comment for this story. A spokesperson for the retailer confirmed Topshop’s exit and noted that there are exciting youthful initiatives in the works for the retailer including the addition of new brands to its stores.
“Hudson’s Bay is growing its millennial and Gen Z offering through elevated brands and in-store experience,” the company said in a statement. “We have already introduced brands like Mango, Good American, Sweaty Betty, ALC, AFRM and Ganni, and are working to launch dozens of new, relevant brands and are anticipating an incredibly compelling fall line-up.”
“From denim to active to contemporary fashion, we are curating an assortment that reflects sustainability, size inclusivity, and quality from both Canadian and international labels. In stores we are transforming and expanding the footprint these brands and others will occupy, through dedicated, curated spaces. While we continue to shape our offering for style-seeking millennials and Gen Z, Hudson’s Bay will exit Topshop by October 2021.”
“Additionally, the launch of Marketplace earlier this year has also enabled us to move quickly in response to trends and customer demands. We are continuously onboarding new sellers that align with our brand missions to help Canadians live their best style of life. In a matter of days we are now able to deliver more new and emerging brands, including Canadian designers and businesses, that resonate with our customers. In just weeks, more than 300 new brands have already been added to thebay.com“.
HBC also provided a quote from a senior executive for this story. “We know that style-seeking millennials want brands that meet their standard of quality, inclusivity and fashionability,” said Laura Janney, SVP Apparel, Hudson’s Bay. “We are fostering strong relationships with brands from all over the world, and building an assortment that offers trend-right, contemporary fashion, some of which Canadian customers will only find at Hudson’s Bay.”
“As the fifth largest e-comm business in Canada coupled with a national network of stores, Hudson’s Bay has the most comprehensive premium fashion offering in the country. We are able to work with big brands as well as nurture new and emerging designers to provide a sense of discovery, with a focus on key drivers like sustainability, diversity and local.”