This month, luxury Swiss timepiece brand Breitling will open its Canadian flagship at 250 Bloor Street East in Toronto. It’s a remarkable move, considering the lack of luxury retail – or any retail for that matter, nearby. Breitling’s new space could act as precedent for other luxury brands seeking Bloor Street retail space and as a best-case scenario, could see Bloor Street’s cachet expand east of Yonge Street.
Founded in Switzerland in 1884, Breitling is particularly known for its precision-made chronometers, which are useful to aviators. Prices can climb well into the thousands, particularly for premium models in precious metals and stones. The company retails in exclusive stores worldwide and also operates free-standing boutiques, with U.S. locations in New York City, Miami, Orlando, and Las Vegas.
Breitling's new Bloor Street space will serve customers and vendors in its storefront, with its Canadian offices and repair facilities behind the retail space. Breitling's current Canadian office, located on nearby Hayden Street, lacks retail space for the public.
Bloor Street's luxury retail is typically confined to the stretch of Bloor Street West between Yonge Street and Avenue Road and in particular, luxury brands tend to cluster in the roughly 300 metre/1,000 foot span of between Harry Rosen (at Bellair Street) and the Park Hyatt Hotel (Bloor Street West and Avenue Road). Breitling's new Bloor Street East location is over 800 metres/2,700 feet east of Harry Rosen, and over 500 metres/1,675 feet east of Yonge Street. Locals generally consider Yonge Street to be the dividing line between upscale Bloor Street West and the more mid-market Bloor Street East.
After learning of Breitling's new location by industry insider Paul Amato, we began to question if Bloor Street's retail cachet could move eastward. We consulted with luxury retail expert and HRC Advisory President Farla Efros, who explained how Toronto currently lacks a 'Magnificent Mile'-like stretch of retail (like that in Chicago) and how given its size and wealth, Toronto warrants something similar. She described how some luxury brands have difficulty finding the 'right' space along Bloor's existing (and sometimes struggling) luxury strip and how expanding the strip eastward may provide more opportunities for brands looking to expand in Toronto.
It may be a number of years, however, before Bloor Street east becomes a bona fide luxury shopping destination. The street currently features mostly mid-market retailers, as well as various redevelopment opportunities. It will be interesting to see if developers, brokers and retailers can work together to expand Bloor Street's upscale retail eastward and in the process, create an elongated, world-class luxury shopping strip similar to those found in cities such as New York City, London, Paris, Madrid, and Chicago.
All photos by 'Greg'. Thank you Paul Amato, Farla Efros and Urban Toronto's ACT7 for information pertaining to this article.