Hudson's Bay continues to add pricey brands as it becomes more upscale, with some labels formerly only available at Holt Renfrew. Brands have recently been added to the store's accessories, footwear and men's and women's ready-to-wear departments, competing directly with similar selections at Nordstrom, Holt's, and other upscale retailers.
Various Hudson's Bay stores across Canada have recently added shops for Kate Spade and Marc by Marc Jacobs accessories, joining an ever increasingly upscale selection of leathergoods. Pricey footwear brands such as Sophia Webster, Melissa by Vivienne Westwood, Hugo Boss, Loeffler Randall, Diane von Furstenberg, and Ron White have been added to several Hudson's Bay locations. Hudson's Bay's best flagships now carry men's and women's fashion collections such as The Kooples, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Vince and Theory -- all of which are also carried at Holt Renfrew locations across Canada. Furthermore, Nordstrom's Canadian stores will also carry many of these brands, as evidenced by the brand mix at its new Calgary location.
In the late 1990's, Holt Renfrew became the exclusive Canadian distributor for Kate Spade bags and accessories. Until recently, Kate Spade handbags were only available at Holt Renfrew and at Kate Spade's free-standing Canadian stores, the first of which opened in the fall of 2012 at Toronto's Yorkdale Shopping Centre. In September, several Hudson's Bay stores saw the introduction of purpose-built Kate Spade 'soft shops', profiling the brand's expanded accessories collection.
Until recently, as well, Marc by Marc Jacobs' Canadian distribution was primarily through Holt Renfrew. Last month, the popular designer/blogger Beckerman Sisters launched the Marc by Marc Jacobs' line at Hudson's Bay, making personal appearances at its flagship Toronto and Vancouver stores. Several Hudson's Bay stores now feature purpose-built Marc by Marc Jacobs soft-shops, carrying a variety of the brand's upscale accessories. Hudson's Bay flagships in Toronto and Vancouver also carry the Marc line of men's and women's ready-to-wear fashion, while a handful of locations also carry the brand's footwear.
Popular French brand The Kooples was recently introduced to Hudson's Bay flagships. At the same time, four Kooples concessions opened this month at Holt Renfrew's Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver locations. It's interesting to see that both Hudson's Bay and Holt Renfrew now carry upscale collections by Vince, Theory, McQ by Alexander McQueen, Hugo Boss, Eileen Fisher, Helmut Lang, Opening Ceremony, and others. Surprisingly, Hudson's Bay managed to secure concession rights to popular and pricey French brands Sandro and Maje, and we're told that these brands are doing so well that they're considering opening free-standing Canadian stores.
Hudson's Bay's move towards becoming more upscale took off in 2008 when then-President Bonnie Brooks added about 250 new brands to the retail chain, after dropping about 800 underperforming labels. In late 2009, the 22,000 square foot luxury women's department 'The Room' was added to its Toronto flagship, featuring top international clothing and accessories brands priced into the thousands. A 20,000 square foot Vancouver 'Room' location opened about two years later. Various Hudson's Bay's accessory departments also saw upscale designers added, including the likes of Botkier, Love Moschino, Furla, Z Spoke Zac Posen, Halson Heritage and the inclusion of several Coach shops-in-stores. The world's second-largest Coach shop-in-store was located within Vancouver's flagship Hudson's Bay, though its 3,200 square foot space was recently reduced to house the new Marc by Marc Jacobs shop.
Hudson's Bay may continue to add more top brands, now that its parent company owns American luxury retailer Saks Fifth Avenue. Saks has strong relationships with some of the world's top brands, possibly giving Hudson's Bay access to some Saks labels. At the same time, with Saks Fifth Avenue's intention to open as many as eight Canadian stores, it remains to be seen if their parent company will continue to position Hudson's Bay as more upscale. If it does, Hudson's Bay will see substantial competition from Nordstrom, which currently positions itself between Saks Fifth Avenue and Hudson's Bay in terms of pricing. Nordstrom plans to open as many as 10 Canadian stores and could be fierce competition for Hudson's Bay, especially as Nordstrom's Canadian stores will feature fresh interiors and focus on superior customer service.