Hudson’s Bay Appoints New President for Canadian Department Stores Amid Changes for Retailer

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Toronto-based department store retailer Hudson’s Bay announced Monday that it will have a new President as Wayne Drummond announces his retirement. Sophia Hwang-Judiesch will replace him — she’s a Canadian who most recently was with Ulta Beauty. She’s taking the reins of Hudson’s Bay at a time of change and at a time when the retailer requires investment more than ever. 

As part of the announcement, Hwang-Judiesch will now report to Richard Baker, Governor and Executive Chairman of the Hudson’s Bay Company and join The Bay’s Executive Committee led by Iain Nairn, President and CEO of online division The Bay.

Most recently, Hwang-Judiesch was Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at US-based Ulta Beauty. Prior to that she was Senior Vice-President at Carter’s Oshkosh and before that she was with Esprit de Corp as China Country Manager – Retail, Wholesale & E-commerce, China Brand, overseeing the most important market for Esprit globally.

Sophia Hwang-Judiesch, photo supplied
Hudson’s Bay in Downtown Vancouver (Image: Lee Rivett)

Hwang-Judiesch said in a statement, “I am excited to return home to Toronto, as I already hold a deep connection and affinity for Hudson’s Bay, so I am thrilled by the opportunity to lead Hudson’s Bay stores. This is an incredibly exciting time in the industry, when brick and mortar retail is redefining itself. I look forward to building on the transformation already underway at Hudson’s Bay, to elevate and shape the customer journey and drive growth across the business.”

The Bay’s Iain Nairn said, “Wayne Drummond is retiring from Hudson’s Bay. The company is grateful for his leadership and dedication over his esteemed 34-year career with HBC.”

Hudson’s Bay is the physical network of 84 department stores in Canada — the retailer’s e-commerce division was spun off as its own division, The Bay, a bit over a year ago. The online division sees millions of page views annually and is a driver of growth, while stores are seeing elements of the online business integrated with new digital initiatives. The Bay division is responsible for shared functions including brand direction, marketing, buying, planning and technology for both businesses.

Big changes are coming to Hudson’s Bay stores, and Hwang-Judiesch will be taking over operations at a time when the traditional department store model is needing a refresh. Concessions are being added including a second-hand retailer in Winnipeg and a beauty retailer in Ottawa. Hudson’s Bay also recently announced partnerships with MEC as well as the revival of Zellers as shop-in-stores, having some scratching their heads. 

Future MEC at Hudson’s Bay Queen Street (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
Hudson’s Bay Queen Street (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

The MEC partnership will involve MEC shop-in-stores being introduced within Hudson’s Bay stores via a concession model, while the new Zellers division stores will also operate as separate locations within Hudson’s Bay stores — Zellers is also expected to feature an online marketplace portal. The move to reintroduce the Zellers name is part of an effort to gain the loyalty of Canadians at a time when the perception of the physical department stores is less than positive. 

Millions of dollars of investment are required to bring many Hudson’s Bay stores into a format and look that is in line with the contemporary consumer. And consumer feedback about the appearance of some Hudson’s Bay stores, particularly suburban units in smaller cities, is often less than positive. Years of wear-and-tear have left some stores in a disheveled condition at a time when shoppers are expecting more. 

The department store itself has become less relevant. In decades past, department stores were an avenue for consumers to discover new brands. Now with the internet and social media, the physical department store model is less relevant in terms of being a place of first discovery, though Hudson’s Bay is attempting to counter this with its significant push with its digital channels. Hudson’s Bay has also been introducing many new brands to its physical stores while dropping others. 

Future Hudson’s Bay Store in Vancouver (Image: Perkins & Will-Hudson’s Bay Company-Streetworks Development)

Changes are being seen at some Hudson’s Bay stores to address the digital shift — for example, the Londonderry store in Edmonton saw updates last year that included single checkouts in each floor and a reduction in the retail footprint partly to create storage space for online fulfillment. Despite the fact that several Hudson’s Bay stores have shut since the start of the pandemic (including downtown Edmonton, downtown Winnipeg, Bloor/Yonge in Toronto and last weekend, Laurier Quebec in Quebec City) it is expected that most of the remaining store fleet will be kept open at least for the real estate potential. 

The Hudson’s Bay Company is also capitalizing on its real estate in Canada’s downtown cores with the redevelopment of some stores. Included will be smaller retail department stores along with the addition of mixed-uses including restaurant and office space. So far the downtown Montreal and downtown Vancouver Hudson’s Bay flagships have been announced for redevelopment and several other downtown stores could also see big changes. 

We’ll be reporting more on Hudson’s Bay in the weeks to come including speaking with analysts on the future of the retailer. 

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson
Located in Toronto, Craig is the Publisher & CEO of Retail Insider Media Ltd. He is also a retail analyst and consultant, Advisor at the University of Alberta School Centre for Cities and Communities in Edmonton, former lawyer and a public speaker. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for over 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Didn’t realize the estate of the Canadian business was still 84 stores.
    There is a massive investment needed to pull them even side to side with the now dated looking Nordstrom fleet of 5 full line stores.
    Has HBC ever considered splitting some of their estate that isn’t renovated or performing to an off price liquidation concept? there certainly is an obvious market for this split?
    Thus keeping the Full Price stores more polished and the struggling locations armed with a more competitive price point aimed at more volume?

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