Luxury Italian Brand ‘Furla’ Enters Canadian Market with Multi-Store Expansion [Photos]

Italian luxury brand Furla has officially opened its first Canadian storefront as it kicks off a national expansion that is expected to see multiple locations in the coming years. Furla says that it saw demand in the market from e-commerce sales which prompted the brand to open its first direct-to-consumer storefront at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre last week. More standalone Canadian units are expected as Furla gains a foothold in the Canadian market. 

Furla’s Yorkdale location features a prominent facade with a design showcasing the latest look for the brand. Inside, the bright space features an assortment of women’s leather goods, footwear, sunglasses and scarves. A Canadian e-commerce site will be launched in January 2020, providing Canadians the opportunity to shop the brand online while creating brand awareness ahead of a multi-store expansion. 

The Yorkdale Furla store spans nearly 1,500 square feet in a retail space across from the mall’s highly productive Holt Renfrew store. The retail space, once housing a Vince Camuto store, is adjacent to a soon-to-open replacement store for French luxury brand Longchamp. Yorkdale’s landlord Oxford Properties has conceptualized the area, including a run of the mall leading towards Sephora and Zara flagships as a new ‘luxury run’ with other brand announcements forthcoming. 

“We have seen high traffic on our e-commerce site from Toronto-based customers and have identified this Canadian region as an opportunity for growth,” says Alberto Camerlengo, Furla’s CEO. “We are excited to enter this specific market through such an established shopping center and offer shoppers the full brand experience in our store.”

Montreal-based licensee Halcyon Brands is behind the Furla brand expansion in Canada. Jeff Berkowitz of Aurora Realty Consultants negotiated the Yorkdale lease with landlord Oxford Properties, and is working on a Canadian store expansion that could see Furla stores in several major Canadian markets. According to Aurora’s website, Furla is seeking retail spaces between 1,000 square feet and 1,500 square feet on high streets as well as in major shopping centres. 

The Toronto market could be in line for at least one more Furla store — the city is growing quickly, having added more than 125,000 new residents in the area last year alone. Toronto is seeing an incredible tech boom with more than 80,000 tech jobs having been added over the past five years, placing the city just behind the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle in terms of employees in the sector. The city now has more than 240,000 tech workers with an average salary of more than $100,000, which has resulted in rising real estate prices as well as retail growth. The booming centre, which is considered to be the business capital of Canada, has a robust economy generally with a substantial percentage of the population having a net worth in excess of $1 million. Luxury brands are taking notice and many are eyeing the city to open direct-to-consumer stores, if they haven’t already. 

The Toronto market is expected to see a Furla store open somewhere in the downtown core, either in the upscale Bloor-Yorkville area or at the busy CF Toronto Eaton Centre. Bloor-Yorkville has seen considerable construction including an overhaul to Holt Renfrew’s flagship, Eataly which will open on November 13, and a clustering of luxury brands on Bloor Street West and more recently on Yorkville Avenue. CF Toronto Eaton Centre remains the busiest shopping centre in North America with more than 52-million annual visitors, and is anchored by flagship stores for Hudson’s Bay, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Nordstrom. Either of these locations could be targets for Furla’s second Toronto storefront. 

The Vancouver market, which is also growing quickly and is seeing a tech boom of its own, is also a highly desirable market for luxury brands. Particularly high sales at luxury retailers in the city has been attributed to a high Asian population, as well as tourists visiting the beautiful city from around the world. As of late, luxury brands have been seeking space primarily in the city’s downtown ‘luxury zone’, which spans roughly between the Hotel Vancouver on West Georgia Street and the Shangri-La Hotel on Alberni Street, with adjacent streets seeing some of the world’s biggest names on several streets in the area. Nearby CF Pacific Centre also houses a range of upscale shops, including several luxury boutiques, as well as the highest-selling locations anywhere for both Nordstrom and Holt Renfrew. 

Finding space in Vancouver’s ‘luxury zone’ area has been challenging for some brands while at the same time, QuadReal’s Oakridge Centre is courting major brands in its own ‘luxury zone’ which will include a run within the enclosed shopping centre that could give downtown Vancouver a run for its money. Already, Tiffany & Co. has relocated its Oakridge storefront to the new luxury run at Oakridge, and negotiations for other big brands are said to be in the works. 

Developer SHAPE partnered with L Catterton in the development of The Amazing Brentwood in Burnaby, which is also targeting luxury brands on an upper level wing. Retail Insider was provided with a confidential lease plan indicating that the project is targeting some of the world’s biggest luxury brands, not to mention possibly a well-known large-format luxury retailer that was recently in discussions to open in the centre. 

The Montreal market could also be a target for Furla, with a downtown core seeing new upscale brands as well as the massive Royalmount project which will be completed in several years. Luxury shopping in downtown Montreal is now concentrated primarily at Holt Renfrew Ogilvy as well as the run of Rue de la Montagne northward to Sherbrooke Street, where brands such as Montblanc and Christofle have opened stores. Royalmount will feature a luxury wing spanning as much as 70,000 square feet, and at least one upscale anchor store could also locate in the centre, according to sources. 

The Calgary market, which continues to be home to many affluent households, is another potential target for Furla as CF Chinook Centre secures luxury brands in the shopping centre that is anchored by Alberta’s only Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom stores. Louis Vuitton opened at CF Chinook Centre in the fall of 2018, joining Tiffany & Co., Burberry, and Canada Goose, among others. The Edmonton market is also seeing luxury brands gravitating to West Edmonton Mall — over the summer, Louis Vuitton opened in the massive centre which also houses Tiffany & Co., Rolex, and Canada Goose, with more luxury brands said to be on the way. 

Furla was founded by the Furlanetto family in 1927, and it continues to remain family-owned. The company produces various product categories that include leather goods such as handbags and shoes, as well as an expanding category of accessories that include eyewear, jewellery, and watches. Furla’s headquarters are in Bologna, Italy, in a historic 18th-century villa. In 2015, the company opened a five-storey tall ‘Palazzo’ in central Milan.

Furla’s pricing is a bit lower than that of brands such as Chanel, Hermes, and Louis Vuitton, which Furla says gives it a competitive advantage. “It is the only brand in the fast-growing premium segment that gives customers an authentic Italian experience with an attractive value for money proposition, positioning itself as one of the major global players in the leather goods market,” according to the company. Furla also has regional headquarters in New York City, Hong Kong, and Tokyo, and the company employs more than 1,600 people. Interestingly, about 90% of these are women who represent more than 100 nationalities, with an average age of 36. 

Furla has more than 1,600 points of sale worldwide, with approximately 1,200 of those being in multi-brand retailers and department stores. Furla also operates a network of nearly 450 stores worldwide in 100 countries, with about half of them being directly owned and the rest being franchised, as is the case in Canada. In the United States, Furla operates stores and outlet stores in major markets in California, Nevada, Texas, Florida, New York, and Massachusetts. In Canada, the brand can be found in a handful of prestigious retailers including a shop-in-shop at the Peace Arch Duty Free store on Highway 99 in Surrey, south of Vancouver. When Bonnie Brooks was brought in to revive the Hudson’s Bay Company in 2009, a selection of Furla bags were carried in the Toronto and Vancouver Hudson’s Bay flagship stores for several seasons. 

Some Canadians may already be familiar with the Furla brand, which in years past had Canadian storefronts that operated under another licensee. In the earlier 2000’s, a Furla boutique was located in Toronto at 41 Avenue Road (south of the former ‘Hazelton Lanes’) and in Vancouver, a Furla boutique occupied the prominent southwest corner of Burrard Street and West Georgia Street (in the city’s ‘luxury zone’), which is now anchored by a Hermes flagship store that was profiled in Retail Insider last month

We will continue to follow Furla’s expansion into the Canadian market, as well as analyze the growth of luxury retail in Canada as brands open direct-to-consumer storefronts as well as leased concessions in Holt Renfrew stores. 

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd.

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