Upscale Edmonton-based womenswear retailer Blu’s will open a store this year at West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton. It will be a fourth location for the storied retailer and will replace a store that recently shuttered at Edmonton’s Southgate Centre.
The West Edmonton Mall Blu’s store will be located in Phase One of the shopping centre in a 2,100 square foot second-level space most recently occupied by womenswear retailer J. Michael’s. Blu’s will be located between a Mephisto shoe store and retail Luggage Unlimited, and across from multi-brand luxury menswear retailer Harry Rosen as part of a strategic positioning. A large number of women shop at Harry Rosen for men in their life, and now women will have their own upscale place to by fashions close by.
An Edmonton Blu’s store closed several months ago at the Southgate Centre after a lease expiry. Blu’s had occupied 3,315 square feet on a small second level of the shopping centre that also houses the mall’s administration offices and an optical centre.
Blu’s other Edmonton storefront is located on the second level of the downtown Manulife Place retail podium which until January of 2020 also housed a Holt Renfrew store. Upscale menswear retailer Henry Singer has a store downstairs at Manulife Place which has otherwise seen most retail tenants vacate over the past three years and will see a redevelopment.
In Calgary, Blu’s operates two stores, including a 4,439 square foot downtown location on the third floor of Banker’s Hall, as well as a 3,890 square foot store on the second level of the Southcentre shopping centre.
Blu’s began in 1978 as a section within the Henry Singer store in downtown Edmonton. At the time, Henry Singer occupied the main floor of the Birks Building at the northeast corner of Jasper Avenue and 104 Street in a 6,000 square foot space that it leased in 1974. The opening of the Henry Singer women’s department saw coverage in the Edmonton Journal as per the newspaper clipping from Newspapers.com below.
In 1981, Blu’s relocated to a small storefront on 104 Street near Jasper Avenue in the Standard Life building (which is now anchored by a Shoppers Drug Mart store). In 1983, John and Jennifer Leavitt purchased Blu’s from Henry Singer and in 1988, the couple moved the Blu’s store into a much larger two-level space in the new 200,000 square foot Manulife Place Phase II which is now occupied by DynaLIFE Medical Labs. Blu’s eventually moved to its current second-level space at the original Manulife Place and in 2015, the retailer was acquired by Kerry Tham and Vince Kong who joined as partners. The Manulife Place Blu’s store saw a full renovation in 2017.
Blu’s has been part of many Edmonton women’s wardrobes over the years, helped in part with its ‘The Investment Wardrobe’ which encourages customers to buy key pieces that can be worn in various ways depending on the occasion.
Upscale Blu’s features a range of fashions, footwear, bags and accessories from leading designers with a price-point in the ‘contemporary’ category. The retailer carries some brands not found elsewhere in Edmonton or Northern Alberta. Exclusive brands to Blu’s in Edmonton include French bag and accessory brand Longchamp as well as fashion brands such as Veronica Beard and Anne Fontaine. Other notable brands at Blu’s include Eileen Fisher, Hugo Boss, Marie Saint Pierre, Marc Cain, Smythe, Sarah Pacini, and Tiger of Sweden. Footwear styles from Stuart Weitzman, Frye, and Canadian brand Ron White are also carried in-store.
Blu’s is one of the only upscale multi-brand retailers in the Edmonton market and in downtown Edmonton, it’s the only upscale multi-brand womenswear retailer after Donovan’s shut down in 2009. Downtown Edmonton retail has been devastated due in part to the pandemic with mass vacancies made worse with Hudson’s Bay’s plans to shut its Edmonton City Centre store on June 3rd. West Edmonton Mall is home to La Maison Simons which currently has the most extensive assortment of women’s designer brands in the shopping centre.
Upscale retail in Edmonton is clearly shifting to West Edmonton Mall — it’s a movement that has been progressing for the past eight years when Tiffany & Co. opened a store at the centre. Things ramped up when in the summer of 2019, French luxury brand Louis Vuitton opened a store at West Edmonton Mall, followed by luxury brand Saint Laurent in December 2020 and last month, a 5,000 square foot Gucci store opened between the two other luxury brands. The loss of Holt Renfrew in downtown Edmonton was a blow to the area and its closure was only about two months before the pandemic shut retail across the country temporarily. Downtown Edmonton continues to struggle as many work from home because of the pandemic, and it’s unclear what the future will hold in terms of people returning downtown to shop.