By Craig Patterson
Holt Renfrew’s Bloor Street flagship store in Toronto recently unveiled an impressive new footwear hall on its mezzanine level, which features a vast offering of luxury brands including impressive shop-in-stores. It’s all part of a renovation to the 50 Bloor Street West flagship that will be completed in 2020, at a time of unprecedented competition amongst luxury retailers in Canada.
The Bloor Street Holt’s footwear hall relocated downstairs for several months while the store’s mezzanine level was renovated. Last week, Holt’s unveiled a new 7,800 square foot footwear hall which was designed by creative agency Kramer Design Group and master architects Gensler. Terrazzo floors and fixtures and white oak tables contrast with glass pedestals and warm bronze accents, and there’s a dedicated sneaker area with smoked glass and plush felt fixtures. The new shoe space is about 60% larger than the previous department and the new footwear floor includes a ‘luxury personal shopping suite’ as well as an expansive assortment of handbags — something new for a Holt Renfrew shoe department.
About 40 leading designer brands are featured in the new Bloor Street footwear hall, with names such as Gianvito Rossi, Manolo Blahnik, Miu Miu, The Row and many others. Several branded areas highlight designs by luxury labels such as Balenciaga, Celine, Valentino and Prada.
The footwear floor also features three luxury brand hard-shops — Gucci and Christian Louboutin are now open, and boutiques for Roger Vivier and Dior are under construction and will open in the spring of 2019.
The Gucci boutique reflect’s the brand’s most updated store design, which is now being rolled-out at Gucci stores internationally. The Christian Louboutin boutique joins women’s Louboutin shops at Holt’s in Vancouver, Montreal, and at the Yorkdale Shopping Centre location (Louboutin also operates a standalone flagship on nearby Yorkville Avenue in Toronto, as well as inside Nordstrom in Vancouver). Roger Vivier, considered to be one of the world’s most prestigious footwear and accessory designers, is a major score as very few stores feature dedicated Vivier areas. The Dior shop will be the first dedicated footwear shop-in-store for the brand in Canada.
Yorkdale was a prototype for Holt’s when it unveiled its new 10,000 square foot women’s footwear hall in early 2014. That store became the first to feature ‘hard shop’ shop-in-stores for top brands. When Holt’s opened its relocated store at Square One in Mississauga in the summer of 2016, it unveiled several luxury boutiques as part of the women’s footwear area. The highly-productive Vancouver Holt Renfrew store unveiled its new 8,500 square foot women’s footwear hall in early 2017, featuring a boutique area for Christian Louboutin, an adjacent Ladurée salon, as well as branded walls with shelves displaying designs from some of the world’s top shoe brands.
Holt Renfrew will continue enhancing its footwear offerings into next year and onwards when it opens an expanded ‘Holt Renfrew Ogilvy’ store in Montreal. The 250,000 square foot large-format luxury store is being created by expanding the existing Ogilvy department store building on Ste-Catherine Street West and when finished, the current Holt Renfrew store on Sherbrooke Street West will close. Holt’s hasn’t provided details of the new Holt Renfrew Ogilvy footwear hall, though it’s worthy to note that Christian Louboutin opened a boutique inside of Holt’s in Montreal this spring.
This is a time of unprecedented competition as luxury brands seek out Canadian shoppers, and Holt Renfrew continues to stand out by offering a wide assortment of luxury branded designers as well as shop-in-store boutiques. Holt’s main department store competition comes from the likes of Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom — both chains operate stores in Canada that include an array of luxury brands. Saks Fifth Avenue’s Toronto and Calgary stores include a range of luxury labels, though in slightly more conservative environments than Holt’s, and without the individually branded shop-in-stores. Nordstrom’s Canadian flagships in Toronto and Vancouver also carry an impressive roster of brands, many of which are also found at Holt’s. Only Nordstrom’s Vancouver store features a shop-in-store boutique in Canada, housing a Christian Louboutin on the store’s main level adjacent to the ‘Salon Shoes’ department.
Holt Renfrew is also competing with upscale footwear concept stores in Canada — Toronto-based Davids Footwear plans to eventually operate stores across the country, and it features several of the top brands also carried at Holt’s. Browns Shoes and Jean-Paul Fortin are also expanding, and both carry some upscale lines. At the same time, some more mid-market shoe brands have exited Canada, or are about to — earlier this year the Nine West and Rockport brands closed their Canadian stores, and DSW recently announced that it was shuttering its Town Shoes chain.
Last week, Holt Renfrew hosted a private shopping event in partnership with Toronto Life. Retail Insider social correspondent Yana Brikker was there, and she said that she was impressed with the space and selection, not to mention the guest list. Ms. Brikker provided some of the photos in this article.
Holt Renfrew’s Bloor Street store will see renovations conclude in the year 2020, and is part of an announced $400-million investment in the chain’s network of stores. Holt’s Bloor Street Store will see more changes — menswear will move back into the 50 Bloor mothership after locating in a standalone 16,500 square foot building at 100 Bloor Street West in 2014, for example, with the new men’s department expected to span about 25,000 square feet. The store’s cosmetics offerings will be expanded over two levels (much will locate on the concourse level, according to staff in the store) , and the store will get a new facade to replace the current white marble storefront. The store’s ground level is also seeing a renovation that will create something of a ‘luxury mall’ — Saint Laurent opened there several months ago and new boutiques for Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Dior and others will be opening, and we’ll report on these with regular updates.
The new 2,650 square foot Louis Vuitton boutique is under wraps and it opens to the public on Friday of this week.