By Craig Patterson
Popular Japanese fashion retailer UNIQLO has revealed the opening dates of its next four Canadian stores. When all are open by the beginning of November of this year, the company will have almost doubled its Canadian store count over an eight-week time span.
UNIQLO currently operates five stores in Canada — two in Toronto and three in the Vancouver area. More store announcements are expected soon as lease deals are finalized, according to landlords, not including the four confirmed locations that have been revealed to the public.
Of the four confirmed UNIQLO stores, three are in the Greater Toronto area and one is in the Vancouver area.
"Encouraged by the warm welcome we have had to date, we are thrilled to be opening three new stores in the Greater Toronto Area and a fourth new store in Greater Vancouver," said Yasuhiro Hayashi, Chief Operating Officer of UNIQLO Canada. "We're excited these four new stores will allow more people to discover LifeWear, thoughtfully created to make everyday life better and more comfortable."
The British Columbia store opening comes first, taking place on Friday, September 14. The 15,970 square foot store, which will include about 12,000 square feet of retail space, will open in the former Old Navy at Coquitlam Centre. The store will be located on the mall’s second level, according to floorpans by landlord Morguard. Coquitlam Centre’s UNIQLO will be the fourth location in the Vancouver area and for a two-week timespan, Vancouver will have double the number of UNIQLO stores compared to Toronto.
That will change on Friday, September 28, when UNIQLO opens a 28,150 square foot location at Vaughan Mills, just north of Toronto. The store will have about 20,000 square feet of retail space and will be located where Holt Renfrew’s off-price concept HR2 was located before it shuttered in December of 2017.
And on November 2, 2018, UNIQLO will unveil a 19,850 square foot store at Square One in Mississauga, which will include about 15,000 square feet of retail space. UNIQLO’s location at Square One is remarkable as it has been carved out of the mall’s former Target space — Target exited Canada in 2015 and prior to Target, Zellers occupied the premises. Entertainment concept The Rec Room will open nearby in the spring of 2019 as well as a new ‘food district’ market that is also expected to open in the fall of 2019.
All four stores above open at 10:00am and according to UNIQLO, one HEATTECH item will be given away to the first 500 customers who make a purchase on opening day of each new store. As well, people will be encouraged to 'Spin The Wheel' for the chance to win free items or discounts between 2:00pm-5:00pm.
When all four stores are open, the Greater Toronto Area will be home to five UNIQLO stores, while Vancouver will be home to four locations.
The first two Toronto stores, both of which opened in the fall of 2016, are considerably larger than all of the stores that have opened in British Columbia to date. The CF Toronto Eaton Centre store, which opened in September of 2016, spans about 33,400 square feet over two levels in part of the mall’s Sears space which has since been repurposed to house Nordstrom, Samsung and several smaller retailers on the mall’s second level.
The Yorkdale UNIQLO store opened in October of 2016 and spans more than 30,000 square feet over two floors. For a period of about a year, Toronto was the only market in Canada to boast any UNIQLO locations.
That changed in October of 2017 when UNIQLO unveiled its 20,630 square foot two-level store at Metropolis at Metrotown in Burnaby. Several months later, in March of 2018, UNIQLO opened a 12,800 square foot store at Guildford Town Centre in Surrey. In April, UNIQLO opened its third Vancouver-area store in Richmond when it unveiled an 8,010 square foot one-level unit at CF Richmond Centre.
UNIQLO is expected to expand its base of stores into secondary markets in Canada such as Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa at some point, though the company hasn’t provided a timeline. Toronto and Vancouver might be considered to be strategic moves as UNIQLO looks to expand brand awareness in the country, similar to what it has done in the United States. There, UNIQLO started opening stores in New York and California before expanding further into markets such as Chicago and Boston.
Those in Canada living outside of Ontario and BC can now buy UNIQLO items online with its recently launched mobile e-commerce platform that also has core items available in an extended range of sizes from XXS to 2XL.
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, though that might be considered to be ambitious considering how competitive retail is becoming in Canada. 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.