Thursday, 31 October 2013

News: Hudson's Bay Reveals Sochi 2014 Canadian Olympic Gear

New collection aims to celebrate Canada while spreading the Olympic spirit.
Canadian athletes model the 2014 Sochi collection.
Hudson's Bay, the official outfitter of the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic teams has unveiled their official Olympic collections. The retailer will be dressing Canada's teams and now is offering all Canadians the chance to be a part of the Olympic moment.

"We're so proud to continue to be a part of the Olympic Games and are thrilled to be the Official Outfitter of the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Teams," says Bonnie Brooks, President, Hudson's Bay Company.  "As a Premier National Partner of the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee, we support our athletes in many ways and we are excited to witness what they will accomplish at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.  We at Hudson's Bay are fiercely proud to be Canadian and are passionate about bringing the Olympic spirit to Canadians through our clothing and we can't wait to cheer on our athletes, knowing that we CAN own the podium."

The 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Collection is meant to reflect a unique Canadian character. Key motifs in the collection include colour-blocking (using three main colours that Hudson's Bay calls Maple Leaf Red, Northern White and Winter Night Black), the maple leaf and crest symbols, and a nod towards diverse Canadian wildlife.

Stand out items include:

The Duffle Coat. A wool coat inspired by the iconic Hudson's Bay Point Blanket with large toggle buttons, $275.

The T-Shirts. Colour-blocked and solid colour t-shirts in a variety of designs, $30-35.

Reversible Down Jacket. Winter ready in red or black, with a signature crest on the sleeve, $150.

And of course ... the signature Olympic Mittens, $10.

The collection will be available at Hudson's Bay stores across Canada and at Prices range from $5-$30 for accessories, $12.99-$50 for children's wear, and $19-$275 for adult apparel (the most expensive item being the duffle coat).

The Hudson's Bay Company has been the official outfitter of Canada's Olympic and Paralympic teams since the 2006 winter games. Since beginning their partnership with the Canadian Olympic Committee, HBC has donated over $35 million to national sports organizations and recently renewed their partnership for a further eight years.

[Click here for the official HBC press release.]

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

News: Sears Confirms Details of $400 Million Deal

Sears flagship at the Toronto Eaton Centre

As Toronto Shopkeper reported yesterday, Sears Canada confirmed today the sale of 5 store leases in a transaction worth $400 million.

Sears will close their Toronto Eaton Centre, Sherway Gardens, and London-Masonville locations by February 28, 2014. A year later they will close their stores at Markham's Markville Shopping Centre and Richmond Centre in British Columbia. In total 965 associates will be affected by the closures. Sears has said qualified associates could be offered positions in other stores. All the malls in question are owned by Cadillac Fairview (except Richmond Centre which is co-owned with Ivanhoe Cambridge).

"Unlocking the value of assets is one of the three levers we have said we will use as a way to create total value for the Company," said incoming Sears CEO Douglas Campbell.  "When proposals such as this one are presented to us, we must weigh the value of the transaction against the value we will obtain from continuing to operate those stores in their current locations.  In this case, we were presented with an opportunity that gives us a significant financial benefit without changing our plans to improve the business and make Sears more relevant to Canadians. Our primary focus of creating long-term value for the Company is best approached by focusing on the basics of the business and continuing to become more relevant with Canadian consumers coast to coast."

Last month former Sears CEO Calvin McDonald resigned from the retailer in the midst of a three year planned turned around. McDonald focused on key product categories and shed store leases to some high profile Sears locations. Today's announced closings combined with those previously announced mark the company's retrenchment from some key urban markets.

"The Company will operate 111 full-line department stores after Sears vacates these five stores," continued Mr. Campbell, "which continues to be a substantial retail presence across Canada, especially in suburban and mid-size markets where Sears plays a major role in the marketplace."

When Sears acquired the bankrupt T. Eaton Company Limited in 1999, it gained entry to a number of prime urban spaces. Prior to that the retailer had operated primarily in suburban markets. The Toronto Eaton Centre and Sherway Gardens stores were both former key Eaton's stores and Sears was reported to have inherited their advantageous lease rates.

There has been intense media speculation about the future tenant (or tenants) of the Eaton Centre location with both Nordstrom and La Maison Simons being touted as most likely.

As part of the deal Sears will retain the upper four floors of the Eaton Centre location where it maintains its head office.

It was also reported today that Sears Canada's struggling US parent Sears Holdings is considering spinning off their Lands' End and Auto Center businesses.

Monday, 28 October 2013

News: Sears Selling Additional Store Leases

Toronto Eaton Centre and Sherway Gardens locations to close in 2014.
Sears flagship at the Toronto Eaton Centre
October 29th Sears Canada will officially announce that it has sold additional store leases to some of its highest profile locations.

Sears has come to an arrangement with Cadillac Fairview to sell a total of five store leases, three are in the Toronto area: Eaton Centre, Sherway Gardens, and Markville Mall. Last year it sold leases to several high profile locations paving the way for Nordstom's entry into Canada.

The Eaton Centre and Sherway Gardens locations are slated to close in February 2014, with the Markville location closing in 2015. The official announcement was delivered to Sears employees.

Last month it was announced that Sears CEO Calvin McDonald was resigning from his position at the retailer (he has since been named head of Sephora Americas). During his time at Sears, McDonald refocused on key product categories and shed store leases to such ionic Sears locations as its Vancouver Pacific Centre store. However he was reluctant to vacate the flagship location at the Toronto Eaton Centre (where the retailer also keeps its head office and for which it paid a very low lease).

In a recent Globe and Mail article, incoming Sears CEO Douglas Campbell confirmed that Sears would consider selling additional leases (including the Eaton Centre location) if the price was right.

Nordstrom has reportedly coveted the Eaton Centre location, and landlord Cadillac Fairview has been craving a more productive anchor retailer.

[Image via Cadillac Fairview]

News: Honest Ed's Sold to Developer

David Mirvish has confirmed that Honest Ed's (the discount department store that was put up for sale this past summer) has been sold to Vancouver-based developer Westbank Properties.

Honest Ed's was opened over seven decades ago by David Mirvish's father Ed. The iconic discounter fills a city block at the corner of Bloor and Bathurst Streets. Known for it's flashy outdoor signs, annual Christmas turkey giveaway, and cheeky handmade instore signage, Honest Ed's had become a Toronto institution.

This past July it was reported that the store was beingoffered for sale for $100 million, and that David Mirvish would concentrate his energies on Mirvish Productions and a Frank Gehry designed redevelopment of his King Street properties.

Buyer Westbank is known as a luxury developer and was behind Toronto's Shangri-La Hotel. No plans for the site were announced, but Mirvish confirmed to media that the store will remain open for up to three years while the plans are finalized.

Also included in the deal are properties along Markham Street in the area known as Mirvish Village. This street is a unique collection of small retailers and restaurants and it's expected it will be affected by the redevelopment.

The Mirvish property at Bloor and Bathurst
[Image via Honest Ed's, map via Google Maps]

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Review: Toronto Shopkeeper Shops Rexall

Discovering how the pharmacy chain is rebranding and reinventing itself.

Location: Rexall (63 Wellesley Street East, Toronto, ON)

Over the past decade while Shoppers Drug Mart has been growing and capturing market share, Rexall has seemed comparatively frumpy and dated. They rolled out a cheeky ad campaign poking fun at their main competitor's focus on beauty and proclaimed their motto "A Pharmacy First."

Rexall is now in a period of transformative change that is seeing it transition from dreary into a formidable drug store competitor. Toronto Shopkeeper visited one recently renovated store to discover the new Rexall.

Design: Gone is the tired old Rexall logo (which looked like it was designed by an over worked 1970s ad man) and in its place is a new streamlined typeface rendered in a soft turquoise colour that appears throughout the newly renovated and expanded Wellesley Street location.

The store has grown with the addition of a second storey and escalators rise past a new wall of windows. The effect is an airy open space that entices the customer upstairs. The ground floor features cosmetics, snacks, and home supplies. The second floor features the pharmacist, health and beauty items, and baby supplies.

Upstairs as you step off the escalator you enter a "Men's Zone," an iPad equipped counter with a focus on helping men navigate the selection of grooming products. Beyond this the pharmacist's counter anchors a wellness area that includes a naturopathic and homeopathic section. The fixtures are clean and sleek and the store is well lit and easy to navigate.

Merchandise: Earlier this year Rexall launched a new range of private label products called Be.Better, a collection it says is "designed to help Canadians live, feel and be better." Be.Better items include vitamins and supplements, household products, beauty products, and snacks. The packaging is consistent with the new Rexall branding. Other private brands include Nosh & Co. (snacks and beverages) and Creation's Garden (a natural line of personal care products).

The pharmacy area features an impressive selection of national and private brand vitamins and the natural wellness area provides an accessible alternative to a health food store.

Also found are all the brands you would expect to find in a pharmacy from Pampers diapers to Axe deodorant. While the ground floor features many mass market beauty brands you won't find the prestige lines that Shoppers Drug Mart has been luring to its shelves. This isn't in itself a problem as Rexall is clearly positioning itself as a drugstore first.

Service: On a weekend afternoon the store was fully staffed on both floors. A cosmetician was manning the main floor beauty department. Upstairs, the Men's Zone offered a unique way to dispense selling information in an area that may not be as well staffed as the cosmetics department below.

The checkout line moved quickly and the friendly cashier offered a grand opening discount coupon with a minimum purchase. The receipt featured an additional coupon, enticing the customer to return for another visit. While Shoppers has their popular Optimum program, Rexall is an Air Miles partner and customers earn 1 Air Mile for every $15 purchase.

Online: Like Shoppers, Rexall lacks e-commerce on its website. While the website has been refreshed with the new look and logo, it's fairly ordinary and offers flyer information, a store locator, and company information. With Walmart and Amazon now offering health and beauty items through their online stores, lacking e-commerce is a missed opportunity.

Grade: 75%

Lost marks for: Rome wasn't built in a day, nor will a huge chain of stores be rejuvenated overnight. Many older stores remain (with that awful old logo) that don't reflect the new look and feel and change will take time. E-commerce would be another way to step into the future. Also, I fail to understand why some stores are branded Rexall and others as Rexall PharmaPlus with no discernable difference between the banners. Surely branding everything simply Rexall would be simpler, cleaner, and might in fact Be.better.

Gained marks for: A refreshing new look that proves you don't have to copy your competitors in order to be competitive. The shop design is thoroughly modern and appealing, in some ways even more so than Shoppers. The new Be.better range has a premium look and feel and is well positioned to grow with the new Rexall.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

News: Loblaw to Cut 275 Jobs

Canada's largest grocer Loblaw Companies Limited announced today that it is shedding 275 jobs, about 200 of those from their Brampton head office. The job losses will be primarily managerial and administrative and the retailer promises little store level impact.

A year ago Loblaw announced 700 job cuts to its head office. Today's announcement furthers the company's goal of streamlining operations in the face of increased competition. Both Target and Walmart have been aggressively courting customers with expanded grocery offerings. Target plans to open up to 135 Canadian locations, all with grocery departments. Discount competitor Walmart earlier this year announced that it intends to open an additional 27 Supercentres in 2013 which include an expanded grocery section.

After the announcement, Loblaw stock ended the trading day up $1.08 at $47.09.

In July Loblaw confirmed it was acquiring Shoppers Drug Mart for $12.4 billion. That deal is expected to expand Loblaw's reach into urban markets and provide distribution opportunities for their private brand products. The merger is expected to generate significant cost savings.

Loblaw has approximately 134,000 full and part-time employees across the country and operates 22 banners in a mixture of corporately owned and franchised stores.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

News: Saks Fifth Avenue Lanches Saks OFF 5TH Website

Retailer's off price division opens e-commerce channel.
Saks OFF 5th website
Saks Fifth Avenue has been in the news lately with its recent acquisition by HBC and its plans to open stores in Canada. Now the venerable retailer is launching a new online store for it's Saks OFF 5TH outlet.

Saks OFF 5TH was originally launched as an outlet for Saks Fifth Avenue merchandise. It has evolved into a major retail brand in its own right with over 800 major brands offered off price at its stores and now through its new website.

“This is a significant milestone for Saks OFF 5TH as the company rounds out our omni-channel offerings. In addition to our 70 nationwide stores, the e-commerce site is yet another platform through which we can provide our curated off-price shopping experience. We want it to be the Saks of the off price world, a true extension of the brand,” said Robert Wallstrom, President of Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH.

Saks has a successful online store for its mainline brand, one of the reasons HBC cited for acquiring the company. Recently it has been shooting back at luxury flash sale competitors like Gilt Groupe by launching timed specials called FashionFix on its website. Now with its Saks OFF 5TH website, Saks is reaching an even broader consumer base.

The Saks OFF 5TH website will offer the same brands found in stores, along with the Salon Z plus size women's collection currently in limited distribution. Online promotions will be consistent with store offers and new items will be added daily. The Saks FashionFix flash sales will move to the Saks OFF 5TH website.

“We designed the site to be a sleek, modern online reflection of the elevated design of the OFF 5TH stores with a strong value message. We think it will become a best in class off price fashion destination online,” said Michael Burgess, President of Saks Direct.

Though Saks has confirmed that Canada is the retailer's largest international market, the Saks OFF 5TH site does not currently offer shipping to Canada.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Preview: 65-Storey Tower to Rise at Toronto Eaton Centre

Cadillac Fairview proposes a new residential tower atop a historic 4-storey podium building.

A rendering of the proposed development at 2 Queen Street West
The north-west corner of Queen and Yonge houses a historic commercial building that has seen a succession of tenants over the years. Cadillac Fairview is proposing a new rental tower at this site that will restore and utilize the facade as part of the new building's base.

The new tower will be designed by Zeidler Partnership Architects and contain 475,000 square feet of space with 580 rental units. The bottom two storeys of the podium will contain retail space. Above that will be building amenities including a terrace on the fifth level. The tower will have no parking spaces (though bike parking will be available) and is a significant injection of residential rental space into the Toronto market. The building will connect to the Eaton Centre's facilities and sits atop the Queen subway station.

Rendering of the tower with nearby buildings

An article in The Grid outlines the fascinating history of 2 Queen Street West. The site was the home of men's clothing retailer Philip Jamieson whose store included large plate glass windows and a round corner entrance (his advertising would reference "The Rounded Corner").

According to the City of Toronto heritage designation, the Philip Jamieson Building is an example of a late 19th century commercial building with Classical detailing. Its design is Renaissance Revival with differing window shapes on various levels and Classical motifs.

The Philip Jamieson Building in 1897

Later occupants of the site included Woolworth's, who operated here between 1912 and 1980. Woolworth's covered the building with a metal skin that was removed in the 1980s. The exterior is currently partially restored and partially covered. Currently the home to an Atmosphere sportswear store, 2 Queen Street West was the Toronto home of Tower Records from 1995 to 2001.

The corner of Queen and Yonge Streets in the 1970s
Prior to the construction of the Toronto Eaton Centre, Eaton's encircled the site with store frontage on both Queen Street and Yonge Street. According The Grid, a former landowner had a stipulation in her will baring the sale of the property to the Eaton family, for reasons unknown.

[Historical images via the City of Toronto Archives and the Toronto Public Library, renderings via Cadillac Fairview]

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

History: Eaton's & Simpson's Celebrating Toronto's Subway

When department store rivals celebrated Canada's first subway.

A display window at Simpson's
With all the drama in the news about potential subway construction in Scarborough, and the bickering amongst various levels of government, Toronto Shopkeeper looks back to the dawn of Toronto's subway system.

On March 30, 1954, after five years of construction, the Yonge subway line was officially opened by Ontario Premier Leslie Frost and Toronto Mayor Allan A. Lamport. The line ran from its northern terminus at Eglinton to Union Station. Along the way it passed under the flagship stores of the city's two most important retailers Eaton's and Simpson's

The department store competitors commemorated this first subway in Canada with a series of display windows focusing on innovation and accomplishment.

While to modern eyes the displays may appear slightly hokey, they offer a nostalgic glimpse into how important the subway was to the development of the modern city. Yet somehow it seems inconceivable that a modern retailer would celebrate a TTC project in the same way.

A display window at Simpson's

A display window at Simpson's

A display window at Eaton's
A display window at Eaton's
A display window at Eaton's
[Photos via City of Toronto Archives]

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

News: Lands' End Sets Sail for Canada

Venerable American catalogue retailer launches Canadian website.

Lands' End, known for its classic apparel and its "Guaranteed. Period." no quibble return policy, is launching a dedicated Canadian website. Canadians can now shop, see pricing in Canadian dollars, and have total duties and taxes calculated at checkout. The retailer is also offering free Canadian shipping with any purchase over $50 CAD.

"We are dedicated to focusing our efforts on an enhanced e-commerce presence in Canada that not only offers an online shopping experience that is true to the Lands' End brand but is also tailored to the specific needs of Canadian shoppers," said Carl Atwell, VP International, Lands' End. "We are eager to connect with new customers and become a trusted brand for style, quality and value for years to come."

The brand's Apostrophe quarterly.
Lands' End (the misplaced apostrophe was a typographical error that has since become a company signature), started fifty years ago as a Chicago-based sailing outfitter. It has since become an American retail institution with the bulk of its business conducted through traditional mail order as well as its e-commerce channel.

The company's founder Gary Comer instituted a hassle free return policy and promised that "If you're not satisfied with any item, simply return it to us at any time for an exchange or refund of its purchase price. Guaranteed. Period."

The brand's signature pieces include its outwear (many pieces hint at the company's nautical heritage), canvas bags, and custom monogrammed dress shirts. Lands' End has said that a significant number of their customers were ordering from Canada and they have now joined many American retailers offering all-in-one pricing for Canadians.

Lands' End is owned by Sears Holdings Corporation (the American parent of Sears Canada). A selection of the brand's products were available for several years in selected Canadian Sears locations in dedicated shop-in-shops. Lands' End is now targeting Canadian customers primarily through its website.