Oxford Properties is launching the most ambitious luxury retail expansion to date at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre. The landlord is re-tenanting about 100,000 square feet of the mall’s centre run for luxury retailers, creating one of the world’s leading clusterings of luxury stores in one single location.
The unprecedented transformation will see one of Yorkdale’s original corridors, one which recently housed a large venue for pop-up entertainment, into a row of the world’s leading luxury brands which will operate stores as large as 15,000 square feet. Curious visitors to the mall may have recently noticed hundreds of feet of construction hoarding as well as the relocation of almost all of the previous tenants that once occupied the expanse.
Yorkdale’s Director, William Correia, said in an interview that there’s now over 900 linear feet of construction hoarding along the central corridor, with a significant re-merchandising taking place that involves relocating most of the corridor’s previous tenants to other parts of the mall. The process began months ago with retailers such as Browns Shoes and Ecco relocating stores within Yorkdale. A handful of non-luxury tenants remain for now and they’ll be relocating as well — Untuckit will soon have a new smaller format store in another part of Yorkdale, and long-time tenant Michel’s Bakery will also be finding a new home as part of the central corridor’s complete overhaul.
Correia said that the luxury square footage at Yorkdale will expand significantly with the re-tenanting of the mall’s centre run. Currently about 13% of Yorkdale’s space is dedicated to luxury retailers, and Correia estimated that when the luxury expansion at Yorkdale is completed in 2025, about 18% of the mall’s space will be for luxury brand stores. That number could be as high as 20% according to another estimate provided by someone at Oxford Properties to Retail Insider.
The expanded roster of stores at Yorkdale will create the single most significant clustering of luxury brands in Canada according to Correia. No other shopping centre in Canada, or luxury retail node for that matter, comes close to matching the sheer number of luxury stores found at Yorkdale, not to mention what’s to come.
Correia said that Yorkdale could even become the leading centre in North America in terms of luxury offerings, while the new tenants are expected to help increase the mall’s sales per square foot. Already, annual per square foot sales at Yorkdale are in excess of $2,000, with overall sales at the mall exceeding $2 billion annually for the first time last year. A recent ICSC report said that Yorkdale’s productivity per square foot is fourth in North America in terms of shopping centres, and more high-selling luxury brands could boost Yorkdale’s productivity to be closer to that of the luxurious Bal Harbour Shops near Miami, currently ranking number one for sales.
In an effort to cater to even more affluent consumers coming through its doors, Yorkdale will be making some upgrades including a renovation of its valet lounge, according to Correia, as well as a new VIP program that could not yet be discussed. The mall already offers valet parking which was recently expanded due to demand. Food and beverage has also been added to Yorkdale to keep affluent shoppers there, with examples including the attractive restaurant in the mall’s RH store and a new upscale two-level Chinese restaurant across from it.
Correia said that Yorkdale’s newest luxury wing should be finished either in late 2024 or early 2025, with luxury brands opening their stores for spring or fall 2025, depending on timing.
Luxury was already beginning to open on the edges of Yorkdale’s central corridor where the new luxury wing is now being built. In the summer of 2017, jeweller European Boutique unveiled Canada’s first standalone Breitling store in the corridor, located at the western end towards the mall’s Sporting Life and RH stores. Since then, locations for brands including Tudor have opened on the western end of the corridor via Raffi Jewellers, which has a Rolex store on the corner. At the eastern end of the corridor (closer to other luxury stores), brands such as Hublot, Oliver Peoples, TAG Heuer and Jaeger LeCoultre have opened and this fall, the first North American storefront for luxury jeweller Queelin will join them. In a way, the addition of these luxury brands to the formerly mid-range retail corridor was something of a foreshadowing of what was to come.
Yorkdale has had some upscale stores and stores carrying luxury brands since its opening nearly 60 years ago. Holt Renfrew has had a presence at Yorkdale for decades, albeit in smaller spaces (until 1998 it operated a 27,000 square foot store where Aritzia is now, before relocating to its current space which had been a grocery store). Yorkdale’s standalone luxury store openings began in 2009 when Tiffany & Co. unveiled a store in the mall, across from the Holt Renfrew store (which in 2012 saw a substantial expansion including the addition of mall-facing luxury brand concessions). In 2013, just a decade ago, things really began to pick up when Ferragamo, Cartier, David Yurman, and Mulberry opened stores at Yorkdale, while in 2014 other luxury names joined them included Bulgari, Moncler, Jimmy Choo, Montblanc, and Versace.
Those first luxury stores were located in a corridor directly north of the main entrance to Holt Renfrew, and in 2016 Saint Laurent opened in what would be the beginning of another set of luxury brand corridors that have since been built in the mall. Yorkdale’s 2012 expansion wing beside Holt Renfrew has also been for the most part re-tenanted with luxury stores, with the most recent opening being Dolce & Gabbana last week. Ralph Lauren will soon open its first ‘World of Ralph Lauren’ store in Canada in the new wing as well.
New tenants for Yorkdale’s newest luxury wing have yet to be announced, with non-disclosure agreements requiring tight lips. Some chatter in the industry includes a few brands that some say will be opening in the new luxury corridor. One of those brands is Fendi, which in the fall of 2022 opened a standalone store at Yorkdale which was said to be on a two-year lease in anticipation of a flagship in the new wing. Only three years before, Fendi opened a mall-facing concession at Holt Renfrew, and in June of 2021 Holts announced that by the end of that year the sale of fur was banned from its stores (including in leased concessions). Fendi, which was founded as a house of fur, began to plan its exit almost immediately.
Fendi isn’t the only brand with a concession at Holts that is said to be moving into Yorkdale’s new luxury wing. There are whispers that other brands are seeking more space, despite the unusually large concession spaces that Holt Renfrew has been able to offer (Gucci’s is about 6,000 square feet for example). Italian luxury brand Brunello Cucinelli, which has a concession at Holts, is said to be eventually moving to a larger space in the new luxury wing. Chanel, which operates a large and highly productive concession at Yorkdale’s Holts, is said to be annexing the adjacent Brunello concession space as well as a substantial amount of space on Holts’ second floor for an expansion of its own.
Holt Renfrew will be renovating part of its store into 2025 according to the company, signalling a shift in its retail space as Yorkdale continues to transform. The concession model was seen as necessary for Holt Renfrew to maintain its roster of exclusive luxury brands not found elsewhere in Canada. Holts boasts a clustering of brands not found at Saks or at the former Nordstrom locations in Canada, and the clustering of brands at Holts has resulted in almost all of its stores selling in excess of nine figures annually.
Some brands have successfully negotiated the opening of ‘world of’ concessions within Holt Renfrew stores, carrying a brand’s entire line of men’s and women’s ready-to-wear as well as bags, accessories and footwear. Examples include Balenciaga at Holts in Vancouver and Bloor Street, Loro Piana in Vancouver, Burberry and Dior at Holts Yorkdale and Gucci Yorkdale and, soon, Calgary. Other brands such as Chanel operate large concession spaces at Holts, carrying the brand’s entire offerings in one area. At some point, some concessions may look to jump ship and open standalone stores, as Louis Vuitton did before the pandemic when it exited two Holt Renfrew stores in Alberta and relocated into major suburban shopping centres.
Yorkdale is unlike any shopping centre in Canada, both in terms of its offerings as well as its importance for international retail entrants. More brands open first-in-Canada stores at Yorkdale than any single place in the country, including many first-to-market luxury brands. Yorkdale for the past decade has seen a fascinating transformation that will continue for years to come. Nordstrom recently vacated its 190,000 square foot space in the mall, and it has not yet announced what will replace it. Yorkdale’s future also includes mixed-use buildings on the site, including multiple residential towers where there are currently surface parking lots.
Oxford Properties has invested millions into Yorkdale, including a recent $10 million investment to renovate its third floor food court. The expanded food court now provides seating for 1,200 diners and it recently added nine new restaurant concepts, bringing the number to 23.
An Earls restaurant opened this spring, with “a design, menu, and a wine list inspired by the Yorkdale customer”, according to Oxford Properties. In total, Yorkdale has 35 quick-service restaurants and 12 traditional restaurants.
We’ll continue to report on the new luxury wing at Yorkdale, including new tenant announcements when permitted.