By Craig Patterson
Popular Japanese fashion retailer UNIQLO has announced that it will open four stores in Canada in the fall of 2018, as it ramps up its Canadian expansion that could see as many as 100 stores open over the next several years. Remarkably, the fall 2018 announced expansion alone will almost double UNIQLO’s Canadian store count in a relatively short period of time. As competition continues to grow in the fast-fashion category, there could be fallout as similar retailers fight for market share.
Of the four newly announced UNIQLO stores, three of them will be in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and one will be in Vancouver’s eastern suburbs. The three GTA stores will be at: Vaughan Mills, Square One in Mississauga, and at CF Markville in Markham. The Vancouver area store will be at Coquitlam Centre. When all stores are open, the GTA will have five UNIQLO stores and the Lower Mainland will have four.
The Vaughan Mills store will be the largest of newly announced UNIQLO stores with more than 20,000 square feet of retail space over one level, in a ~28,150 square foot space vacated in December of 2017 by HR2, which was an off-price/value concept run by Holt Renfrew that was shuttered. Vaughan Mills is a ‘hybrid outlet centre’ operated by landlord Ivanhoé Cambridge and according to the Retail Council of Canada Shopping Centre Study, the mall is one of the largest, busiest and most productive in the entire country.
The Mississauga Square One UNIQLO store will span about 15,000 square feet of retail space on one level, and will be located in part of the retail space once occupied by US-based Target. The Oxford Properties-managed mall’s former Target space will be repurposed to also house The Rec Room, which will open in the spring of 2019 as well as a new ‘food district’ that is also expected to open in the fall of 2019. Lease plans show UNIQLO occupying a gross area of about 19,850 square feet in the new Target box expansion. Square One is also one of Canada’s most productive malls as well as one of its largest and busiest — the centre boasts annual sales per square foot surpassing $1,000, and is one of two Canadian malls boasting revenue in excess of $1-billion annually.
The CF Markville UNIQLO will also include about 15,000 square feet of retail space over one level, in a retail space formerly occupied by US-based Forever 21. It makes sense for UNIQLO to move into the Markham centre, which is surrounded by one of the highest densities of Asian residents in Canada. The 18,560 square foot former Forever 21 space is located between H&M and The Gap and is across from Zara and Sporting Life, as well as another Japanese retailer, MUJI, which is also expanding its base of stores in Canada. CF Markville, which is a strong Cadillac Fairview property is seeing new tenants including Saks OFF 5TH, which opened in March of this year — and lease plans show several other unique retailers that will soon be announced.
At Coquitlam Centre in suburban Vancouver, UNIQLO will occupy abut 12,000 square feet of retail space on the mall’s second level that was formerly occupied by US-based retailer Old Navy. Lease plans provided by mall landlord Morguard shows a total area for the store spanning 15,970 square feet between H&M and American Eagle, in a wing of the mall that is anchored by Walmart. Coquitlam Centre is considered to be one of the leading malls in the BC Lower Mainland, in terms of size and overall sales numbers.
Jeff Berkowitz of Aurora Realty Consultants represents UNIQLO as broker in Canada.
When all four stores are open in the fall, UNIQLO will have nine stores in Canada — five in the GTA and four in the Vancouver area. UNIQLO entered the Canadian market with two stores in Toronto in the fall of 2016. In September of 2016, UNIQLO opened its first Canadian flagship, spanning 33,400 square feet, at CF Toronto Eaton Centre. A 30,000+ square foot Yorkdale Shopping Centre UNIQLO store subsequently opened in October of 2016, in the mall’s Nordstrom-anchored expansion wing.
UNIQLO’s first store in the BC Lower Mainland opened in October of 2017 at Metropolis at Metrotown in Burnaby, in a 20,630 two-level space. That was followed by the opening of a 12,800 square foot location at Guildford Town Centre in Surrey in March of 2018, and then with an 8,010 square foot store at CF Richmond Centre in suburban Vancouver.
It is expected that UNIQLO will move into secondary markets such as Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa at some point, though the retailer has been focusing on first gaining brand awareness in the influential Toronto and Vancouver markets. Vancouver is anticipating the opening of a flagship UNIQLO store in its downtown core at some point, which would be larger than its other suburban Vancouver stores that are all considerably smaller than the two Toronto flagships at Yorkdale and CF Toronto Eaton Centre.
In September of 2016, UNIQLO Founder and CEO Tadashi Yanai told Marina Strauss of the Globe & Mail that UNIQLO could eventually operate as many as 100 stores in Canada — while it’s unclear if that number will be reached, landlords across the country confirm that they’ve been in talks with UNIQLO and that some deals have already been done for new Canadian stores.
UNIQLO’s expansion in Canada comes at a time when the country is seeing unprecedented numbers of international retailers opening stores. In 2017, more than 50 international brands entered the country by opening standalone stores, and 2018 is shaping up to be another banner year as brands at all price points secure retail space for new stores. The past several years have seen more than 20 international retailers enter the country each year, and a result is some homegrown and other international brands are beginning to feel the squeeze for Canada’s limited shopping dollars.
We’re already seeing some chains such as Le Chateau struggling, with the future of other chains in Canada such as J. Crew being uncertain. There are also more international retailers that are in a similar space to UNIQLO that are considering Canada — an example is fast-fashion Swedish brand Lindex, which is seeking out a local partner to launch a Canadian store expansion.
Canada is also seeing an influx of Asian retailers opening stores — minimalist Japanese retailer Muji plans to operate between 20 and 25 stores in Canada , and it is also expected to expand beyond Toronto and Vancouver as it secures Canadian retail space. Value-priced variety retailer Miniso, which plans to open about 500 stores in Canada over the next three years is another example — though technically the retailer is from China and not Japanese as per its branding.