Wealthy Canadians must love their bling — the country is seeing an unprecedented number of luxury jewelry and watch brands opening freestanding stores, and more are on the way. This month alone, Richemont has opened five luxury boutiques at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre, and Vancouver is about to see a number of store openings in its burgeoning ‘Luxury Zone’.
Last week, Richemont debuted four first-to-Canada boutiques at Yorkdale — Piaget, Vacheron Constantin, IWC Schaffhausen and Officine Panerai have all opened gorgeous side-by-side boutiques in a space formerly occupied by Williams Sonoma. Watches are the focus for all four, while Piaget also features an expansive and pricey jewellery collection. Two weeks ago, as well, Richemont’s Van Cleef & Arpels division opened its first Canadian boutique at Yorkdale across from the company’s other four new boutiques, in an area of the mall that also boasts David Yurman, Montblanc, Bulgari, Cartier and Tiffany & Co. outposts -- Yurman and Bulgari are currently the only freestanding units in Canada.
Richemont management in Toronto says that they expect Vancouver to see most, if not all of the Yorkdale boutiques open in the city’s downtown ‘Luxury Zone’ and unlike Yorkdale, these would be street-front retail spaces. Already confirmed are Van Cleef & Arpels and IWC Schaffhausen, which will both open towards the end of the year in a building that is currently under construction at 1069 Alberni Street. An Officine Panerai announcement is also expected to be made shortly.
Vancouver continues to see luxury jewellers open freestanding boutiques. Next up this fall is Chopard, which will open in the current GWC retail space at 925 West Georgia Street, next to Black Goat Cashmere and across the street from the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. The hotel’s retail podium, which boasts locations for luxury brands Gucci, Dior, Louis Vuitton and St. John, is highly coveted, and Chopard’s debut indicates that Vancouver's Luxury Zone is expanding eastward and onto West Georgia Street.
Vancouver’s Chopard won’t be the first in Canada, however. In the fall of 2015, Chopard opened its first Canadian boutique in Toronto’s CF Sherway Gardens, in partnership with L’Oro Jewellers. Other high-end jewellers in the mall include Tiffany & Co., De Beers and Links of London at the upscale mall near the Toronto/Mississauga border.
The luxury jewellery and watch retail expansion in Canada might just make sense — according to Euromonitor International, sales growth for both luxury jewellery and luxury watches is growing substantially. In 2016, Canadians spent almost $2.1 billion on luxury jewellery, up from $1.28 billion in 2011 — that’s more than 60% growth in just five years. Last year as well, Canadians spent $214.1 million on luxury watches, up from $166.3 million in 2011 (that’s 28.7% growth over five years). Demographics show that Canada’s wealthiest continue to get wealthier — a trend similar to that in the United States.
It’s becoming apparent that Canada's two primary luxury watch and jewellery nodes are Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre, and downtown Vancouver’s expanding ‘Luxury Zone’ (centred on the 1000 block of Alberni Street as well as adjacent Burrard and Thurlow Streets). This summer, Yorkdale will debut Canada’s first Breitling watch boutique with an Omega boutique next to it, and Links of London will open nearby. Vancouver’s Luxury Zone, which has seen the addition of luxury jewellery and watch brands such as Lao Feng Xiang and Jaeger Le-Coultre, also recently saw Tiffany & Co. triple in size. Luxury watch brand Hublot is putting the finishing touches on its already opened boutique at 1080 Alberni Street — it’s the first in Canada for Hublot, and is located next to the Canadian retail headquarters of De Beers.
Toronto’s downtown core, particularly the Bloor-Yorkville area, is expected to see a number of luxury jewellers open over the next several years. Birks will temporarily relocate its Manulife Centre flagship to space formerly occupied by William Ashley, while a new one-level Birks flagship is created in Birks’ existing retail space. The new Birks, which will reflect the design of a Yorkdale prototype that opened last winter, will feature street-front entrances for Van Cleef & Arpels and Breitling boutiques, and possibly others.
Multi-brand jeweller Louis Black, on Toronto’s Yorkville Avenue, recently converted its space into a Richard Mille watch boutique — the Mille brand features styles with some prices exceeding $2-million. Brands and potential franchisees are watching closely, and are considering opening nearby.
While Montreal is no longer considered to be a major luxury market in terms of freestanding boutiques, the city’s Birks flagship is about to see an overhaul, including a redesigned retail space and the addition of a boutique hotel. Montreal’s Chateau d’Ivoire jewellery store, considered to be one of the top luxury jewellery stores in the country, will also see a renovation — there will be stiff competition for luxury dollars in Montreal.
Luxury jewellery is also becoming a key component to Canada’s luxury department stores. In Saks Fifth Avenue’s downtown Toronto flagship, which opened in February of 2016, shop-in-stores for Piaget, Chopard, Boucheron and De Grisogono anchor the store’s glittering ground floor jewellery hall — a De Grisogono watch in the boutique, with diamonds and a stingray band, is priced at just under $100,000. Saks will be opening in Calgary next year and reportedly in Montreal at some point, and both are expected to see jewellery offerings that will compete with existing city retailers. Holt Renfrew has been upping its jewellery offerings over the past several years, housing brands such as David Yurman, which opened its largest concession in the world inside of Vancouver’s Holt Renfrew in the fall of 2016. Nordstrom, as well, carries an expansive assortment of luxury jewellery and watch brands at its Canadian flagships in Vancouver and Toronto, competing with some of the offerings at Saks and Holt’s.
French luxury brand Chanel, which opened a 5,000 square foot ground floor concession at Holt Renfrew in Vancouver last summer, features a fine jewellery and watch boutique — a first for the brand in Canada. A ‘pigeon blood' ‘Camellia’ broach shocked the media when it was revealed that its retail price was $3 million. Chanel will also open an 8,700 square foot freestanding Toronto flagship at some point in the fall and while it will carry jewellery, sources say that it won’t carry the priciest pieces found in the Vancouver shop-in-store.
It remains to be seen if Canada will continue to see such rapid growth in luxury jewellery and watch brand stores into 2018 and beyond. It will be dependent on a number of factors, including the economy, travel patterns, and even immigration. This summer, we’ll feature a piece on why luxury retail is on the rise in Canada, and we’ll be interviewing some of the country’s leading experts to gain more insight into why the country is becoming a land of bling.