Canadian Cities Could Soon Have More Luxury Department Stores than in U.S.

  Photo: Holt Renfrew/Janson Goldstein/ICSC/Barneys New York

Photo: Holt Renfrew/Janson Goldstein/ICSC/Barneys New York

With Holt Renfrew's expansion and Saks Fifth Avenue's arrival in February, Canadian cities could soon boast a higher concentration of luxury department stores per capita than most American cities. We spoke with a luxury retail expert to determine if Canada will, as a result, become oversaturated with luxury department stores.

For the purpose of this study, North American luxury department stores included Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York and Holt Renfrew. Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom were excluded due to their broader focus.

City Metro Population (2014 est.) Luxury Department Stores Number of Luxury Department Stores
Toronto 6.056 million Holt Renfrew (Bloor Street, Yorkdale, Sherway, Square One), Saks Fifth Avenue (Eaton Centre, Sherway, possible 3rd Saks location TBD) up to 7
Montreal 4.027 million Ogilvy/Holt's, up to 2 Saks Fifth Avenue locations up to 3
Vancouver 2.470 million Holt Renfrew (Pacific Centre, suburban mall), up to 2 Saks Fifth Avenue locations up to 4
Calgary 1.407 million Holt Renfrew (The CORE), possible Saks Fifth Avenue (Chinook Centre) up to 2

After Saks Fifth Avenue opens its first two Toronto stores (in February of 2016) and Holt Renfrew opens its Mississauga Square One location next spring, the Toronto area will boast seven luxury department stores in a region with a population of just over 6 million. Vancouver, with a metro population of about 2.5 million, could eventually see as many as four luxury department stores -- Saks Fifth Avenue could open as many as two locations in the area, and Holt Renfrew is said to be speaking with landlords about possibly opening a suburban Vancouver-area location. Montreal (metro population 4 million) could see as many as two Saks locations as well, adding to an already expanding Ogilvy/Holt's -- giving Montreal up to three luxury department stores. And Calgary, with a metro population in excess of 1.4 million, could see two luxury department stores if Saks Fifth Avenue joins Holt Renfrew in Alberta's largest city.

City Metro Population (2014 est.) Luxury Department Stores Number of Luxury Department Stores
Chicago 9.555 million Neiman Marcus (Michigan Avenue, Northbrook, Oakbrook), Saks Fifth Avenue (Michigan Avenue), Barneys New York (Oak Street) 5
Dallas-Ft. Worth 6.954 million Neiman Marcus (Downtown Dallas, Northpark, Plano, Ft. Worth) 4
Houston 6.49 million Neiman Marcus (Houston Galleria), Saks Fifth Avenue (Houston Galleria) 2
Philadelphia 6.051 million Neiman Marcus (King of Prussia), Saks Fifth Avenue (Bala Cynwyd), Small Barneys New York, downtown 2.5
Washington DC 6.034 million Neiman Marcus (Mazza Galerie, Tyson's Galleria), Saks Fifth Avenue (Tyson's Galleria, Chevy Chase) 4
Miami 5.93 million Neiman Marcus (Bal Harbour, Ft. Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Coral Gables), Saks Fifth Avenue (Bal Harbour, Boca Raton, Dadeland, Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens) 10
Atlanta 5.614 million Neiman Marcus (Lenox Square), Saks Fifth Avenue (Phipps Plaza) 2
Boston 4.732 million Neiman Marcus (Copley Place, Natick Mall), Saks Fifth Avenue (Prudential Centre), Barneys New York (Copley Place) 4
San Francisco/Oakland 4.594 million Neiman Marcus (Union Square, Palo Alto, Walnut Creek), Saks Fifth Avenue (Union Square), Barneys New York (Union Square) 5
Phoenix 4.489 million Neiman Marcus (Scottsdale Fashion Square), Saks Fifth Avenue (Biltmore Fashion Park), Barneys New York (Scottsdale Fashion Square) 3
Detroit 4.297 million Neiman Marcus (Somerset Collection), Saks Fifth Avenue (Somerset Collection) 2
Seattle 3.671 million Neiman Marcus (Bellevue), Barneys (small, downtown Seattle) 1.5
San Diego 3.263 million Neiman Marcus (Fashion Valley) 1
St. Louis 2.806 million Neiman Marcus (Plaza Frontenac), Saks Fifth Avenue (Plaza Frontenac) 2
Denver 2.754 million Neiman Marcs (Cherry Creek) 1
Charlotte NC 2.38 million Neiman Marcus (SouthPark Centre) 1
Las Vegas 2.069 million Neiman Marcus (Fashion Valley), Saks Fifth Avenue (Fashion Valley), Barneys New York (Palazzo) 3

For comparison, we analysed American metropolitan areas housing Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Barneys New York stores. Remarkably, most large U.S. regions have fewer luxury department stores, per capita, than the Canadian cities listed above. Miami is an outlier, featuring an unusually high number of Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue locations. Boston and San Francisco also rank highly per capita, though only Miami surpasses Vancouver's potential density of luxury department stores versus population. A number of U.S. cities larger than Calgary feature only one location for either Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, while Minneapolis (3.495 million), Baltimore (2.786 million), Pittsburg (2.356 million), Portland OR (2.348 million), Sacramento (2.244 million), Nashville (1.793 million), Providence RI (1.609 million) and Milwaukee (1.572 million) have no luxury department stores within their metropolitan regions.

The New York City and Los Angeles regions were deemed outliers and excluded from this study, due to their vast populations and sprawl. 

To gain insight into our findings, we consulted with luxury retail expert Farla Efros, President of leading retail consultancy HRC Advisory. She thinks there will be fallout as retailers fight for market share, with upscale independent retailers first to be hurt due to their small scale. She explained how Americans generally have more discretionary income than Canadians, including higher incomes and lower taxes and as a result, Canada could become oversaturated as Saks Fifth Avenue expands into Holt Renfrew's domain. Ms. Efros noted that Canada's population is growing slowly and that our employment rate is volatile, though the low Canadian dollar is keeping Canadians shopping locally in the shorter-term. Increased tourism may help, though China's economic challenges could ultimately affect the way Mainlanders travel and shop abroad. Ultimately, it will come down to who serves the customer best and who carries the most desirable brands, likely signalling label wars between Holt's and Saks in Canada in the coming years. 

Canadian Retail News From Around The Web: October 21, 2015