Toronto Designers Market Relocates Permanent Storefront to the Holt Renfrew Centre on Bloor Street from Parkdale [Interview/Photos]

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The Toronto Designers Market has relocated its permanent storefront from the city’s Parkdale area to Bloor-Yorkville. The new location is on the concourse level of the Holt Renfrew Centre which is anchored by luxury retailer Holt Renfrew.

The new Toronto Designers Market features an attractive interior in a 1,450 square foot space. Contained within are a range of local designers’ products curated specifically for the new store. The retailer was recently honoured with its second Le Petit Futé Award.

Designer and entrepreneur Karen Ferguson now owns Toronto Designers Market, which has an interesting history. The retailer’s humble beginnings included, until recently, a storefront at 1605 Queen Street West in Toronto’s Parkdale area.

Toronto Designer Market was founded by entrepreneur Joshua James in 2015. He was a gallery owner and part of Parkdale Flea at the time, and he founded Toronto Designers Market with a roster of designers of jewellery, clothing, and artists in the Queen Street space.

Inside the Toronto Designers Market at the Holt Renfrew Centre in Toronto. Photo: Craig Patterson
Inside the Toronto Designers Market at the Holt Renfrew Centre in Toronto. Photo: Craig Patterson

Looking to pursue different things, James sold the business in 2016 to entrepreneur Marcus Kan, who was the Director Of Operations at the retailer — in 2019 he sold the business to Karen Ferguson who was also one of the original designers at Toronto Designers Market when it was founded four years prior. Kan continues to work with Ferguson in the store as well as with his other business ventures.

Ferguson said in an interview that the pandemic was a challenging time for the retailer and that she had to innovate to keep things going.

Owner Karen Ferguson with the Petit Futé award. Photo supplied

“It was crazy scary, we didn’t know what to do because our designers had their own websites. It didn’t make sense for us to shift online because our designers already had their own websites.”

Ferguson said that she pivoted the business to include an education component and kept things going until people returned to physical spaces such as stores. When things began to go back to normal, the business began to thrive again. At the same time, she decided to change the business model which had originally included a collection of shop-in-stores for individual designers.

“With the shop-in-store model, the level of brands in the store were inconsistent,” Ferguson said. Some brands were just beginning while others were established, and some were good at merchandising while others were not.”

Ferguson said that she tried curating a section of the store and found success, and soon decided to curate all brands in a single space so that merchandising would be consistent within the store. Brands now pay for space within the Toronto Designers Market based on the square footage required.

There’s a vetting process involved to get into the Toronto Designers Market, she explained. “They have to be ready for retailing,” Ferguson said, which includes having stock and the ability to supply enough product to the store in an organized and timely fashion including turnaround time. Toronto Designers Market reviews a designer’s portfolio as well as social media and website if they have one as part of the vetting process to determine if there’s a fit.

Inside the Toronto Designers Market at the Holt Renfrew Centre in Toronto. Photo: Craig Patterson
Inside the Toronto Designers Market at the Holt Renfrew Centre in Toronto. Photo: Craig Patterson

The retailer is also continuing with its education component, working with one new designer yearly in a mentoring capacity at no charge that includes everything from getting a brand established to creating tags to merchandising to visuals. Toronto Designers Market has become a ‘community’ according to Ferguson, which includes referring brands to trusted sources such as photographers and communications professionals.

The owners of 1605 Queen Street West recently decided to transition the space which is now an event space called Parkdale Hall. Ferguson moved Toronto Designers Market into the Holt Renfrew Centre last month — the shopping centre is connected to the Bloor-Yorkville PATH system which also connects to Toronto’s Line 1 and 2 subway lines. Bloor-Yorkville is also home to a range of luxury retailers and shoppers that support them.

Prices in the new, attractive and bright Holt Renfrew Centre Toronto Designers Market store range from about $35 to over $3,000. Some one-of-a-kind pieces include a lamp by an artisan priced at $550. Categories range from consumable goods to fashions to jewellery and art.

Marcus Kan, left, and Karen Ferguson in the new store. Photo supplied.
Inside the Toronto Designers Market at the Holt Renfrew Centre in Toronto. Photo: Craig Patterson
Inside the Toronto Designers Market at the Holt Renfrew Centre in Toronto. Photo: Craig Patterson

Ferguson said that she hopes to expand the business in the coming years. That could include expansion in the Toronto market or even in another city. She said that the Toronto Designers Market is unique when compared to other local market retailers — her business focuses on designers while others tend to focus more on crafted goods.

Earlier this month, Toronto Designers Market hosted a well-attended opening party in the space that included various designers and local influencers. Ferguson said that her business will continue to foster community in the city.

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.

1 COMMENT

  1. Congratulations Karen on your move, more foot traffic for sure and your experience on Queen St, will certainly carry you forward in your new location. The concept sounds great! The best to you and Kan.

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