*UPDATE* Since we published this article, Shopping Centers Today tweeted the following, possibly putting the rest rumours that Holt Renfrew will expand into the United States:
Our article on the topic:
On Monday, a tweet from the International Council of Shopping Centers' (ICSC) Shopping Centers Today indicated that Toronto-based luxury department store Holt Renfrew could be looking for retail space in New York City. Sources say that Holt's has sought retail space in Manhattan in the past and if the retailer succeeds this time, it could possibly signal the beginning of Holt's opening stores in various American cities.
Sources confirm that Holt Renfrew representatives were at the ICSC New York National Deal Making Conference on December 8th. On that afternoon, Shopping Centers Today (SCT) tweeted that "Canada's Holt Renfrew department store is seeking space in NYC #CRE #NYConf #ICSC look for a lease signing soon".
The tweet has since been removed from SCT's Twitter account, though we screencaptured it, partly out of disbelief.
Holt Renfrew declined to comment on the subject. Sources at the conference, however, provided informative details that we'll refrain from publishing at this time, except to say that SCT's tweet may not be inaccurate.
If Holt Renfrew were to open in New York City, it could signal Holt's intentions to expand into various markets throughout the United States. This would no doubt be a challenge for Holt Renfrew -- it would need to secure a variety of premium luxury brands, many already carried in similar stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale's and Barney's New York. Holt's would then need to coordinate American logistics, not to mention secure retail space. Holt Renfrew's newer stores are now as large as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus stores -- its Mississauga Square One location for example, opening in the spring of 2016, will measure about 120,000 square feet. Its recently expanded Yorkdale store is about the same size and its Vancouver and Bloor Street flagships are both substantially larger (and set to expand). Its largest location, a combined Ogilvy/Holt's in Montreal, will open in 2017 with 220,000 square feet.
Even if Holt Renfrew were to operate only one American location in New York City, finding space large enough could pose a challenge. Before Nordstrom settled on occupying 285,000 square feet at 225 W. 57th Street (scheduled to open in 2018), it examined a number of locations that would possibly be appropriate for Holt Renfrew. A potential location at Park Avenue and 56th Street, however, is no longer available. Nordstrom, itself, is reportedly seeking retail space Downtown for a second Manhattan store, and three other department stores have recently announced new Manhattan locations.
In September, Neiman Marcus announced that in 2018, it would occupy 250,000 square feet at the Hudson Yards, a massive multi-use development on Manhattan's Far West Side. Saks Fifth Avenue recently signed for an 85,000 square foot space in Manhattan's Brookfield Place, steps away from the rebuilt World Trade Centre. Last year, Barney's New York announced that it will open a second Manhattan location at at 7th Avenue and 16th Street in 2017, measuring about 57,000 square feet.
These new stores join Manhattan's exceptional luxury flagship department stores, all of which are spending millions on renovations. Bergdorf Goodman's iconic Fifth Avenue stores (316,000 square feet: 250,000 sq ft + separate 66,000 sq ft men's store) are seeing substantial remodels, solidifying the retailer's reputation as one of the world's top luxury stores. Barney's New York continues to remodel its 275,000 square foot Madison Avenue flagship, and Bloomingdale's is in the process of upgrading various departments at its 860,000 square foot Lexington Avenue flagship. Saks Fifth Avenue's 646,000 square foot flagship, recently assessed at U.S. $3.7 billion, will see a $250 million overhaul, overseen by a president hired from London's Harrod's.
Department stores aren't the only competition that Holt Renfrew would face. New York City boasts dozens of the world's top mono-brand luxury boutiques, some with multiple locations in upscale shopping areas such as Fifth Avenue, Madison Avenue and Soho.
Sources tell us that Holt Renfrew has shown interest in Manhattan in the past. Prior to the Plaza Hotel's 2008 renovation, Holt Renfrew was looking to occupy retail space at the base of the iconic hotel, directly north of Bergdorf Goodman's luxurious flagship. Holt's would have been substantially smaller than Bergdorf's, as Holt's would have occupied less than 50,000 square feet of The Plaza's 170,000 square foot commercial/retail component.
Some speculate that Holt Renfrew could see success in Manhattan. New York City is home to a considerable number of Canadian expats, who may be receptive to shopping at an American version of Holt's. Holt Renfrew has positioned itself as a slightly trendier version of Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, even by the music it plays -- at Saks and Neiman's, music tends to be more traditional, while at Holt's, you'll often hear upbeat 80's songs such as Prince's Raspberry Beret. Holt Renfrew's more youthful vibe may be partly due to its ownership by London-based parent company Selfridges Group, which also owns Selfridges stores in Great Britain, Brown Thomas in Ireland, and de Bijenkorf in the Netherlands.
To be clear, this is speculation, and we cannot confirm that Holt Renfrew intends to expand into the United States. This article is based on SCT's tweet and conversations involving conference attendees. Holt Renfrew may end up never expanding into New York City or to other parts of the United States.
If Holt Renfrew chooses to expand into the U.S., however, it could signal a heated war with Richard Baker's Saks Fifth Avenue chain, which plans to eventually operate as many as seven Canadian locations. We're told that Holt's is taking Saks' Canadian entry very seriously and as a result, Holt's is upgrading its store fleet and closing underperforming locations.
We'll be sure to keep you updated on speculation that Holt Renfrew could open its first international location in New York City.