Downtown Toronto’s CF Toronto Eaton Centre is unlike anything in North America. The massive multi-level shopping complex is one of Canada's most productive in terms of annual sales per square foot, and it’s also the busiest centre in North America in terms of annual pedestrian count.
Construction began in the mid 1970’s and the centre opened in two phases — the north half opened in 1977 with a massive 800,000 square foot Eaton’s flagship store, and the south half opened in 1979. The complex was designed by Eberhard Zeidler and Bergman + Harmann Architects, modeled after the Galleria Vittorio Emauele II in Milan, albeit with a contemporary, enclosed interior. Three office towers were built, with the 29 storey ‘One Dundas West’ tower opening in 1977, followed by the 36 storey ‘Cadillac Fairview Tower’ on Queen Street in 1982, and the 35 storey 250 Yonge Street (formerly Eaton Tower) in 1992.
A third office tower, as well as a substantial retail building, were added in early 2014 when Cadillac Fairview acquired the massive Hudson’s Bay Company Flagship across Queen Street West. The Hudson’s Bay building has nearly a million square feet of retail space, with the adjacent 33 storey Simpson Tower anchoring the northwest corner of the block.
Saks Fifth Avenue’s Canadian flagship opened in about 170,000 square feet of the east side of the Hudson’s Bay building in February of 2016, and Hudson’s Bay continues to operate its Canadian flagship in the remainder of the massive department store space. At the north end of the centre, the former Eaton’s space, which was most recently occupied by Sears Canada’s flagship, has since been subdivided. In the fall of 2016, Nordstrom debuted its first Toronto store with about 220,000 square feet of space, followed shortly after by a 33,400 square foot UNIQLO store — Canada’s first.
CF Toronto Eaton Centre continues to be a first location for brands. Last year, Links of London opened its first standalone Canadian store at the centre, and most recently, Foot Locker debuted Canada’s first location for its new Footaction nameplate. Other firsts include some ‘very first' locations for some retailers, including Arizia’s first location for its Wilfred and Babaton concepts, as well as Steve Madden’s new multi-brand ’SHOO by Steve Madden’ concept, which is about to launch a national expansion.
Retail Council of Canada’s first annual Canadian Shopping Centre study identified CF Toronto Eaton Centre as being a leader in three metrics. The centre is one of the most productive in Canada according to its 2016 results, and new numbers in the 2017 Retail Council of Canada study will show how CF Toronto Eaton Centre will continue to be a leader. CF Toronto Eaton Centre is also one of Canada’s largest centres in sheer size, which takes into account square footage of its CRU’s, as well as its three substantial flagship anchors (Hudson’s Bay, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom).
Remarkably, CF Toronto Eaton Centre ranked as North America’s busiest in the Retail Council of Canada Shopping Centre study. With about 50 million annual visitors, the Toronto mall surpasses America’s two busiest — Ala Moana in Honolulu claims to see about 42 million annual visitors, while Mall of America in suburban Minneapolis registers in at 40 million. The 2017 study will reveal that CF Toronto Eaton Centre has surpassed 50 million visitors with gains over last year, which might be partly attributed to the addition of Nordstrom and Uniqlo stores. With more than 50 million visitors, the centre is comparable to the number of annual visitors to Times Square in New York City, and more than the combined annual visits to Disneyland and Disney World. The 2017 Retail Council of Canada Shopping Centre study will be released this fall [and there’s room for sponsorship for companies that are interested].
Getting that many people into the centre is no doubt a challenge, and public transportation plays a critical role. CF Toronto Eaton Centre is served by two important TTC Subway Stations (Dundas Station to the north and Queen Station at the south end). Both Dundas Street and Queen Street feature busy streetcar lines. The centre is connected to The PATH underground pedestrian network, which is considered to be the world’s longest underground shopping network, with more than 200,000 people passing through on weekdays. Thousands of parking spaces are located nearby for those seeking to drive, though the area can be congested at times. As well, thousands of people live within walking distance of CF Toronto Eaton Centre, and the local population is set to explode as the area is about to see unprecedented residential growth in the areas immediately to the east and north.
Yonge-Dundas Square, at the north end of the centre, is another significant draw. Not to mention Toronto City Hall is west of the centre, as well as Ryerson University’s campus which includes a component connected to CF Toronto Eaton Centre. Toronto’s downtown core is one of the busiest in North America, in contrast to the urban cores in many major cities.
Other large stores in the CF Toronto Eaton Centre complex include an 85,580 square foot Canadian Tire store, a 34,350 square foot Best Buy, A 34,350 square foot Indigo store (which is expected to see a renovation), as well as large locations for Zara, Old Navy and several other retailers. H&M’s largest and top-selling Canadian store anchors the north end of CF Toronto Eaton Centre. The massive three level 52,560 square foot H&M is also one of its largest, globally.
As part of a $120 million renovation to the centre, a new 45,000 square foot, 24-vendor 900-seat ‘food hall’ called ‘The Urban Eatery’ opened in September of 2011, featuring cutlery, dishes and plastic cups to reduce waste. The Richtree Market restaurant relocated to the south end of the centre and when it reopened in September of 2013, it spanned an impressive 17,500 square feet.
The 2016 Winter Holiday season was unlike any other at CF Toronto Eaton Centre. In late November of last year, it unveiled a jaw-dropping 108 foot Christmas Tree to excited crowds, and musical superstar Mariah Carey sang to crowds with the unveiling of Hudson’s Bay’s and Saks Fifth Avenue’s Christmas windows. While other centres in Canada may create impressive winter holiday displays, CF Toronto Eaton Centre’s 2016 displays and activities were unmatched in terms of both grandness as well as financial investment.
Big things are on the way for the fall of 2017 at CF Toronto Eaton Centre, including a massive retail space for Samsung, which is building one of its largest stores in the world in a 21,000 square foot, two-level space between Nordstrom and H&M. To the south of the centre and nearing completion is a stunning new Zeidler-designed walkway that will connect Hudson’s Bay/Saks to CF Toronto Eaton Centre’s other retailers. The new pedway replaces a previous version that can be seen in the video directly below.
Several other new retailers will be opening at CF Toronto Eaton Centre this fall. Montreal-based women’s footwear retailer L’Intervalle will open in the centre in September, as the company launches a national retail expansion outside of the Quebec borders. Aritzia will ‘super-size’ its existing 5,480 square foot store by annexing adjacent retail space, creating an impressive 11,000 square foot flagship that will be unveiled this fall on the mall’s ‘Level 2’.
L’Intervalle tested out the waters by opening a pop-up location in the mall, prior to leasing a permanent space. Cadillac Fairview is hosting its second pop-up retail experience, called ‘CF Collective’, on September 7-10 at CF Toronto Eaton Centre, featuring local ‘all-Canadian vendors including LOYAL to a TEE (unisex fashion brand), Artisella (women’s accessories), and Geton James (men’s accessories). The intention is to further drive the consumer experience, as well as to provide brands a testing ground that can also be used to gain considerable exposure. Cadillac Fairview is extending its CF Collective initiative with its ‘CF Collective Champaign Bar’ that will be hosted on September 15 and 16 and for those heading to CF Shops at Don Mills on September 22 and 23, there will be the CF Collective Gourmet Market, featuring world-class vendors with top quality fresh and prepared foods.
As well, CF Toronto Eaton Centre will see amplified food and beverage offerings. Hendrik’s Restaurant will be opening in the former Baton Rouge location this fall, in a space facing onto Yonge Street. As well, Sweet Jesus Ice Cream, Sushi Q and Auntie Anne’s Pretzels will arrive at the centre, addressing the trend towards increased food and beverage offerings contained within shopping centres.
Retail Council of Canada’s 2017 Canadian Shopping Centre Study will be released in November, and there are sponsorship opportunities available for various companies seeking to gain exposure to the industry. For more information on sponsorship, email Mary Markou at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Most of the photos in this article were taken by Craig Patterson on Saturday, September 2, 2017.