By Craig Patterson
Iconic French luxury brand Louis Vuitton will open a large standalone store on the second level of West Edmonton Mall this summer, which will result in the closure of Vuitton’s downtown Edmonton boutique that has operated there for years. The move signals a shift in luxury retailing in Edmonton as brands exit the downtown core with a focus on the massive suburban shopping centre, which could eventually see a ‘Yorkdale-like’ luxury component on the mall’s second level near Tiffany & Co. and other upscale storefronts.
Construction hoarding went up over the mall’s former Banana Republic space a couple of weeks ago and late last week, Louis Vuitton signage was revealed. Landlord Triple Five Corporation had been in talks with Louis Vuitton for several years and proposed several locations in the mall prior to deciding on the chosen space.
Banana Republic’s former West Edmonton Mall space spans 6,270 square feet according to lease plans, though Louis Vuitton is expected to occupy less than 5,000 square feet. The area surrounding the store has been adding upscale retailers over the past few years. Across from the new Vuitton, Tiffany & Co. opened a 3,300 square foot storefront in October of 2013, and other upscale stores followed including Kate Spade, Coach, Stuart Weitzman, Marc Cain and Michael Kors, which also unveiled Canada’s first dedicated men’s store in the mall in October of 2017.
Luxury multi-brand jeweller Gemoro Goldsmith secured a space across from the new Louis Vuitton to open, among other things, a Rolex boutique as on the floor plan above. Other luxury brands are expected to follow Louis Vuitton in some of the retail spaces stretching west from Vuitton towards the mall’s H&M store. High-end brands would also be sought across the way along the Tiffany & Co. side — Tiffany itself was recently looking to expand according to sources in order to gain a more prominent facade.
Several years ago West Edmonton Mall was considering repositioning the nearby ‘Europa Boulevard’ into a luxury avenue — Europa Boulevard is known to many for its mock-European facades in a glass-enclosed corridor that is anchored by a 126,000 square foot La Maison Simons store, which opened in October of 2012. Proposed retailers would have included some found at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre, which boasts more luxury retailers than any mall in Canada.
West Edmonton Mall is still looking to create a ‘Yorkdale-like’ luxury area though now, it would be on the mall’s highly-productive ‘main run’. According to Retail Council of Canada’s most recent Shopping Centre Study, that part of the mall boasts annual sales per square foot of $1,182 — slightly above Edmonton’s Southgate Centre which is Canada’s fifth most productive mall. Sources confirm that several of the possible luxury brands to open in the mall currently operate leased concessions at downtown Edmonton’s Holt Renfrew store or are otherwise prominent dedicated wholesale areas.
Louis Vuitton has had a presence in downtown Edmonton’s Holt Renfrew store at Manulife Place for years — it began with a small accessory counter in the early 1990’s and eventually expanded into a concession that was made possible with a minor store expansion on the main floor several years ago. Sources say that Louis Vuitton constitues about half of all retail sales at Holts in downtown Edmonton, and that its loss would be catastrophic for the store, not to mention for high-end retailers in the downtown core generally. Staff at Louis Vuitton in Edmonton said that the West Edmonton mall store will open in July, and the downtown Edmonton Holt Renfrew concession will close in December of this year. The future of Holts in Edmonton is even more uncertain now.
Downtown Edmonton’s Holt Renfrew also houses shops and concessions for brands such as Gucci, Burberry and David Yurman — all three brands are expanding their operations in Canada by opening new stores. Brands such as Canada Goose are also said to be looking to open retail spaces in the city, specifically at West Edmonton Mall.
Several high-end retailers have recently vacated downtown Edmonton. German luxury brand Escada closed its Manulife Place store in the spring of 2018, and Birks also left soon after. Upscale multi-brand retailers continue to operate at Manulife Place including Blu’s Womenswear and upscale men’s retailer Henry Singer, the latter which is rumoured to have secured a retail space in a new downtown commercial development.
Louis Vuitton is expanding its presence significantly in Canada, including opening standalone replacement units in selected locations. In October of 2018, Louis Vuitton opened a 4,450 square foot store at CF Chinook Centre in Calgary, which replaced a smaller downtown Calgary Holt Renfrew concession that closed as a result. CF Chinook Centre is also adding new luxury retailers to create something of a ‘Yorkdale-like’ luxury wing near the mall’s Saks Fifth Avenue store, which opened a year ago this month.
Calgary’s Louis Vuitton carries an expanded assortment of leather goods and accessories as well as jewelry and footwear. It doesn’t carry ready-to-wear collections for men or women however — currently the only two Louis Vuitton stores in Canada to carry ready-to-wear include ‘Maisons’ in downtown Toronto and Vancouver. Next year another Canadian unit may carry ready-to-wear, as sources say Louis Vuitton is finalizing details to open a large store at Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto.
Louis Vuitton operates stores across Canada. The luxury brand opened its first Canadian store at 110 Bloor Street West in Toronto in 1983 in partnership with luxury retailer Ira Berg, spanning about 2,000 square feet. A second location opened as a concession at Holt Renfrew in downtown Vancouver in 1987 and in 1989, another concession opened inside of the Ogilvy department store in downtown Montreal. Louis Vuitton’s second standalone store in Canada opened in 1996 at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and in late 2010, it was expanded to 10,000 square feet, making it the first ‘Maison’ in Canada and Vuitton’s 12th globally at the time (to mark the occasion, the company spent $1.5-million on a party that included a trip on a 70-year old steam engine train).
In Toronto the spring of 2012, Louis Vuitton vacated a 6,000 square foot flagship store at 111 Bloor Street West for an 18,000 square foot ‘Maison’ flagship location at 150 Bloor Street West where it continues to operate to this day. Louis Vuitton also operates concessions at Holt Renfrew stores in Vancouver (which was vastly expanded in 2016), Edmonton, and at two Holt Renfrew stores in Toronto (50 Bloor Street West and Yorkdale Shopping Centre). In Toronto, as well, Louis Vuitton operates a 1,200 square foot concession inside of Saks Fifth Avenue at CF Toronto Eaton Centre (it opened in February of 2016, facing the southwest corner of Queen Street West and Yonge Street) as well as a 3,200 square foot concession at Ogilvy in Montreal.
Vuitton once also operated a 3,000 square foot store at Banff’s Cascade Plaza shopping centre which closed in the spring of 2011.
Louis Vuitton is picking up the pace with its expansion in Canada. Last fall, it opened a men’s shop-in-store at Holt Renfrew in Vancouver, which remains one of only a handful in the world to date. That Vancouver concession marked the beginning of a significant expansion for the brand in Canada that will continue into 2020.
Late last year, Louis Vuitton unveiled a substantially expanded concession at Holt Renfrew at 50 Bloor Street West in Toronto, spanning 2,650 square feet. Vuitton will also grow its presence at the new ‘Holt Renfrew Ogilvy’ which is under construction in Montreal.
Louis Vuitton is a division of luxury conglomerate Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (‘LVMH Group’), which includes several leading luxury brands under its corporate umbrella. Louis Vuitton was founded by a man of the same name in 1854, and now boasts a network of nearly 500 stores globally. The company saw revenue somewhere between $9.28-billion and $11.6-billion (US dollars estimates) in 2017, placing it as either the top or second luxury brand in the world in terms of annual sales — Chanel saw sales of nearly $10-billion US dollars last year, according to the company. Italian luxury brand Gucci, which is seeing explosive growth, is expected to surpass both of them by the end of this year after seeing about $7.1-billion US dollars in revenue in 2017.
We’ll continue to follow this story as Louis Vuitton and other luxury brands open stores at West Edmonton Mall. We’ll also follow what’s happening in downtown Edmonton, especially the future of Holt Renfrew and other retailers in the core.