Wednesday, 15 May 2013

News: Humbertown Redevelopment Facing Local Opposition

Local Residents Rally to Save Humbertown.

First Capital Realty Humbertown Redevelopment Rendering
Driving through the affluent west end Toronto neighbourhood of Humber Valley Village, you can't help but notice lawn sign after lawn sign imploring passersby to "Save Humbertown." The signs are part of an effort by local residents to stop a redevelopment of the area's Humbertown Shopping Centre.

Humbertown, which opened in the 1950s, is a strip plaza located on Royal York Road. It acts as a sort of neighbourhood hub and is anchored by a Loblaws store. It is owned by First Capital Realty (which also owns Hazelton Lanes and the Shops at King Liberty).

Early this year First Capital Realty submitted an application to redevelop the  Humbertown site. The mixed use proposal included commercial space, townhomes, and condo towers of up to 21 storeys. In the face of local opposition, the developer submitted a revised development plan. The new plan reduced the scale but not the density of the proposed development. First Capital's revised plan called for three condo buildings of up to 12 storeys with retail  podiums and townhomes surrounding a central square.

First Capital Realty Humbertown Redevelopment Rendering
Last night at a meeting of the Etobicoke York Community Council the proposal was voted down but will now move to city council. Residents fear the density of the development will set a precedent in a neighbourhood defined mostly by single family homes and small three story apartment buildings. Mayor Rob Ford, who supports the community opposition said, “You can’t be tearing down this stuff. This is not downtown. This is Etobicoke." 
First Capital Realty Humbertown Proposed Tenant Plan

In its commercial component the proposed development includes a new underground parking lot, and new retail space for tenants such as Loblaws, Shoppers Drug Mart, and the L.C.B.O.

Click here to watch a video of the development proposal.

[Renderings via First Capital Realty

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Review: Toronto Shopkeeper Shops hr2 Vaughan Mills

Holt Renfrew introduces hr2 and promises affordable luxury.

Location: hr2 Vaughan Mills (1 Bass Pro Mills Drive, Concord, ON)

Holt Renfrew has described its new hr2 chain as Canada's first premium off-price concept store which promises to deliver quality brands at tempting price points.

The first hr2 opened in the Montreal area last month, and up to 10 are planned Canada wide. Holt Renfrew is in expansion mode having announced the intention to increases its retail square footage by 40% in the coming years. A new flagship Holt Renfrew store at Square One, and the launch of hr2 are part of that strategy.

Unlike a typical outlet store, hr2 carries new in season merchandise (though at discount prices). Holt Renfrew has leveraged its established relationships with vendors to obtain a rotating assortment of high-end brands. Think of an online flash sale come to life, the assortment will be forever changing and enticing shoppers to make frequent return visits though will not overlap with Holt Renfrew's product mix.

Design: Undoubtedly hr2 is a vast improvement over its previous life as a Holt Renfrew Last Call outlet store. The concrete floors are about the only thing that hasn't changed. Inside the 25,000 square foot selling space is divided into distinct zones like women's handbags, shoes, etc. Tall display units break up the space with mini walls creating the feel of a mini department store. Thin digital screens line shelves and broadcast featured brand names. The lighting is bright and flattering and the feel of the store is almost loft-like. Bold multi-coloured mural-like walls create continuity and interest, appearing along the accessory wall, behind the cash wrap, and along the fitting room corridor.

Product is displayed on feature tables along aisles rather than plonked solely on racks. The main aisle has waist-high counters with jewellery and men's accessories and tiered units that display handbags and shoes.

Merchandise: The product assortment has a contemporary edge and will have weekly arrivals of new stock. As you enter from the mall you encounter women's accessories with bags by Burberry and Mulberry from $475. Women's Michel Kors sandals were being snapped up at $66, as were Hunter boots from $98. A feature table of bright women's denim had skinny cut jeans from 7 for All Mankind and J Brand. Two walls of sunglasses (one for men and one for women) featured brands such as Prada, DVF, and Ray Ban.

In the men's department hr2 private label suits made from Loro Piana wool were $675 with a nearby wall showcasing colour blocked dress shirts and ties. More casual options were available with True Religion jeans starting at $139 and collections from Superdry and John Varvatos Star USA. Three-packs of Emporio Armani underwear were going quick at $19.

Service: Toronto Shopkeeper visited during the busy opening weekend and was pleasantly surprised to be approached for help while browsing a jam packed accessories department. A helpful associate offered to go check the back for additional merchandise and even later approached me in shoes asking if I needed any additional help

While waiting in a very long line for a cashier, I spotted associates helping waiting customers by fetching requested items from the sales floor. While I didn't expect Bloor Street level service, I was very impressed by the amount of staff on the floor available to help. The true test would be to see staffing levels once the buzz settles.

During the busy opening weekend a singing flash mob and a DJ kept shoppers entertained and a staff member was handing out signature hr2 cookies to weary shoppers.

Online: Disappointingly neither hr2 nor Holt Renfrew maintain e-commerce sites, with their website being purely informational. This seems a lost opportunity especially as American competitors such as Saks Fifth Avenue (which has been recently promoting its Saks FashionFix online flash sales) and Nordstrom (with its online Nordstrom Rack) ship to Canada.

Grade: 90%

Lost marks for: there wasn't much not to like, however an online component would have been a nice touch.

Gained marks for: selection and a fun atmosphere which makes the customer want to come back and see what's new next week. The hr2 concept is a great way for Holt Renfrew to reach out to a trendy yet budget conscious consumer.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

News: Mulberry to Open Toronto Stores

British luxury brand Mulberry will open its first Canadian location this year at Yorkdale Shopping Centre, as part of a wave of new retailers arriving at the mall.

Mulberry was founded in 1971 in the rural English county of Somerset. The brand's clothing and accessories have a quirky English syle and its factory is one of the last large leather goods factories left in the United Kingdom.

The Willow is one of the brand’s iconic handbag styles, which also include the Alexa and the Del Rey.

A second Toronto store is planned for Bloor Street West.

[Image via Mulberry]

Thursday, 2 May 2013

News: Joe Fresh & Loblaw Comment on Bangladesh Tragedy

Canadian fast fashion brand Joe Fresh and its retail partner Loblaw commented on last week’s tragic garment factory collapse in Bangladesh which killed over 300 people. Joe Fresh was confirmed as one of the brands being produced at the factory.

Galen G. Weston, executive chairman of Loblaw, said the retailer will be working to help improve worker safety and pledged compensation for victim’s families. Weston noted that only two companies (Loblaw and UK retailer Primark, both controlled by the Weston family) out of  30 brands manufactured at the factory initially acknowledged their presence there. Loblaw also confirmed that Joe Fresh will continue to manufacture product in Bangladesh.
[Image via Joe Fresh]

News: Tommy Hilfiger In-Store Shops to Open at Hudson’s Bay

Tommy Hilfiger has signed a new distribution agreement with Hudson’s Bay to carry the women’s Tommy Hilfiger sportswear line at all 90 Hudson’s Bay stores and on starting this spring. The company signed an earlier agreement in 2011 with Hudson’s Bay to carry the men’s line.

"Canada's robust economy and increasingly discerning fashion consumers make this the perfect time to introduce Tommy Hilfiger womenswear at Hudson's Bay stores," said Tommy Hilfiger North America CEO Gary Sheinbaum. "Our strategic alliance with Hudson's Bay for Tommy Hilfiger menswear has served our business very well, and we're excited to be expanding the partnership."

Tommy Hilfiger will create dedicated shop-in-shop environments in 59 key locations including the flagship Queen Street store. The flagship locations in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver will be between 700-1000 square feet.

Last month Toronto Shopkeeper reported on how Hudson’s Bay is working to add new brands and create new retail partnerships.