Vancouver's Hudson's Bay flagship turns 100 today, and celebrates with a huge party

By Hilary Taylor

Downtown Vancouver's Hudson's Bay store celebrates its 100th anniversary today. There will be in-store events throughout the day which will be described at the end of this article.

1887 Cordova Street Hudson's Bay store (HBC archives)

1887 Cordova Street Hudson's Bay store (HBC archives)

Hudson’s Bay's Downtown Vancouver flagship has got a lot to celebrate. It has enjoyed a 100-year history that has included the employment of many thousands of staff, the carrying of hundreds (if not thousands) of brands, and the presentation of hundreds of fashion shows. Over the years, it has featured different restaurant options and it has seen numerous interior renovations. In just the past four years, the flagship has been transformed from a rather dated 650,000 square foot store to an attractive multi-level retail space featuring, for example, some of the world's top luxury womenswear brands in its department 'The Room'. Vendor shops continue to be added including the world's second-largest Coach shop-in-store and the world's second-largest TopShop store. All the while, ghost stories about the haunted second floor provide entertaining anecdotes that may have ghost hunters seeking more than just the latest women's Diesel fashions. Interestingly, the store also played a pivotal role in the 2010 Winter Olympics with its Olympic merchandise shops as well as an athlete's lounge. We could go on with details but to keep this (relatively) brief, Vancouver's Hudson’s Bay store has created a legacy over the past 100 years.

The 1893 Hudson's Bay store (on the right of this photo) was demolished in 1925 to expand the 1914 store (Vancouver archives)

The 1893 Hudson's Bay store (on the right of this photo) was demolished in 1925 to expand the 1914 store (Vancouver archives)

Vancouver's first Hudson’s Bay store wasn't its current 674 Granville Street location: it was located on the south side of the 100-block of West Cordova Street, and it opened in 1887. The location was strategically chosen by company executives and some considered it to be risky. The Cordova Street store was in the middle of two emerging commercial shopping areas (Water Street and West Hastings Street) and the strategy was to pull customers from both streets so as not to lose out on either customer. The store was successful and it was an example of the company's many feats in store location planning. Even in the 1800’s, the company was run by risk-takers who capitalized on location, marketing and merchandising strategy to drive the company forward.

In 1892, competitor Woodward's opened a store on the same block as Hudson's Bay, facing West Hastings Street. Hudson's Bay closed its Cordova Street store a year later. Woodward's eventually expanded over most of the block (creating a 700,000 square foot flagship) and in the process, the Cordova Street Hudson's Bay building was demolished. 

By 1931, the 1893 red brick store had been demolished and the new facade dominated Georgia Street. The store would expand twice more to 650,000 square feet by 1949 (HBC archives)

By 1931, the 1893 red brick store had been demolished and the new facade dominated Georgia Street. The store would expand twice more to 650,000 square feet by 1949 (HBC archives)

This demolition didn't happen before Hudson's Bay made the bold move to relocate its Vancouver store to the northeast corner of Granville and West Georgia Streets in 1893. At the time, Vancouver's primary shopping area was in the area around Woodward's. With time, many stores and customers shifted their focus to the new retail area around Hudson's Bay's Granville Street store, and the move was brilliant: to this day, the corner of Granville and West Georgia is considered to be the heart of Vancouver's downtown retail district. The red brick Bay store, built in 1893, was joined by an expansion with a white terra cotta facade and Corinthian columns, which began construction in 1913. The expansion opened to the public on March 14th, 1914 and in 1925, the original 1893 red brick store was demolished to create the seamless Georgia Street terra cotta, columned facade. Two further northward expansions grew the store to about 650,000 square feet by 1949, making it Vancouver's second-largest store; only Woodward's Hastings Street flagship was larger. Hudson's Bay continued to prosper alongside the 1973 opening of an Eaton's department store and the 1971 construction of the adjacent Pacific Centre, which featured a 46,000 square foot Holt Renfrew store.

'The Room' luxury women's department on the store's second floor [Image Source]

'The Room' luxury women's department on the store's second floor [Image Source]

Despite its age, the interior of much of Vancouver's Hudson's Bay is modern. The store has been provided the second-largest renovation budget of any Bay location (following its flagship 'Queen Street' store in Toronto). With approximately $40 million spent on renovations thus far, the Vancouver store has been considered quite the investment for the company, and it has paid off: sales have grown substantially from under $120 million in 2011 to an estimated $175 million last year (the company won't provide exact numbers). The store's upgrades have included an updated exterior, a new 70,000 square foot sixth-floor men’s store, the 20,000 square foot luxury womenswear department called 'The Room' and the world's second-largest TopShop/TopMan store, among others. 

Further changes are on the way for this store including the eventual inclusion of a Saks Fifth Avenue store (which we'll discuss in another article), as well as further renovations to its various floors. The store still needs a lot of work - it desperately requires updated elevators and its fourth floor is rather matronly though it managed to score a temporary Porsche Design concession on its lower level, adjacent to TopShop. 

Hudson's Bay Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympics (photo source) 

Hudson's Bay Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympics (photo source

With its profound history, it shouldn’t be surprising that rumours of ghosts have emerged about the Vancouver Hudson’s Bay location. Late at night there have been strange tales of elevator doors opening and closing, alarms being set off, and doors being opened and closed with no explanation. In a building as old as Vancouver's Hudson's Bay, these tales shouldn't come as a surprise.

The store also played a pivotal role in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. During the Olympics, Canadians and international visitors flocked to this Hudson’s Bay store to shop at its dedicated Olympics Store (now its ground-floor women's handbags hall) to buy branded merchandise including the now-famous Hudson's Bay red mittens. Proceeds from the sale of these mittens helped fund the Canadian Olympic Team. More Olympic-related merchandise was available on the fifth-floor 'International Village' and a sixth-floor lounge was created for Canadian Olympic athletes and their families. 


Congratulations to Hudson's Bay from Retail Insider, and we wish you another 100 years of success.

Today, the Downtown Vancouver Hudson's Bay store will host an all-day party. Admission to the store is $5.00. All ticket proceeds support Arts Umbrella’s outreach programs which provide dance, theatre, visual and digital arts classes to vulnerable and underprivileged kids free-of-charge. Entrance is with ticket purchase only.

The party begins at 8:00 am and goes until 9:00 pm. Included will be the following: 

  • A cake cutting at 1:00 pm,
  • A scotch tasting bar on the sixth floor (men's store) from 2-7:00 pm,
  • Storewide clearance sales,
  • DJ’s on every floor,
  • Free gifts with purchase in every department, 
  • Prize draws, 
  • Fashion shows, 
  • Wardrobe seminars, 
  • Makeovers, and
  • A 'mini museum' of vintage HBC artifacts from throughout the years. 

Hilary Taylor is a 4th-year Retail Management student at Ryerson University in downtown Toronto. She is very passionate about the retail industry and decided to spend her free time writing posts for Retail Insider because that is what gets her excited! She also spends her time studying hard at school and leading a team of students as the President of the Retail Students' Association at Ryerson University. Eager and enthusiastic, Hilary is also looking for new opportunities to share her love for the retail industry. Follow her retail experiences on twitter @hhilarytaylor


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