By Craig Patterson
Large-format luxury retailer Holt Renfrew has provided an update on renovations to its 190,000 square foot Bloor Street flagship at 50 Bloor Street West in Toronto, including renderings of a new facade and restaurant space, as well as more information on its interior renovations. The project is ongoing into 2020 and will see a refreshed space that will anchor the eastern end of Toronto’s famed ‘Mink Mile’.
On May 1, preparations for the store’s updated facade were underway with barricades on the sidewalks and hoarding over some windows. The store’s new facade, shown in the rendering above, will be much different than the current white marble facade that has been part of the flagship store since its opening in 1978.
The new facade, which will unify the piecemeal expansion along Bloor Street over the years, will feature grey limestone, bronze, glass and a new canopy. Construction begins soon and is expected to be completed by the spring of 2020. Gensler is the master architect and designer of the new facade which will extend more than 250-feet along Bloor Street, and is said to cost in excess of $10-million to construct.
The store’s interior is also seeing a substantial renovation that began last year. The street-level space saw Saint Laurent and Fendi open large ‘world of’ concessions last year, both of which are nearly 3,000 square feet each. Louis Vuitton opened an impressive 2,650 square foot space last November. Now, construction is underway for a series of other leased concession boutiques for some of the world’s biggest luxury brands.
Construction hoarding is up for new Gucci and Dior boutiques on the store’s street level — both will showcase the latest design for the brands. An entire section of the level has been cordoned off as a construction site, which will eventually house a mix of luxury accessory brands and jewellery brands. Shops for Celine, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Prada, Miu Miu and Burberry are confirmed to be opening. A David Yurman boutique will also open a replacement location in the new space in a ‘boutique’ format that differs from the current open-concept counters in the store.
As well, Italian luxury jewellery brand Bulgari has said that it will open a boutique at the Bloor Street Holts. It will be Bulgari’s second concession in a Holt Renfrew store, following the opening of a 450 square foot boutique in Vancouver in February of 2018. Bulgari’s only standalone storefront in Canada is at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre — the 1,930 square foot store opened in December of 2014.
In November on the store’s mezzanine, Holt Renfrew unveiled a 7,800 square foot footwear hall that includes a mix of footwear and luxury designer handbags. Some of the world’s biggest brands are represented, including shoe boutiques for Gucci, Roger Vivier and Dior, as well as a concession for Christian Louboutin. The ‘Café at Holts’ on the store’s mezzanine level recently closed temporarily to be renovated and re-opened as ‘Colette Grand Café’, which will relaunch in the fall of 2019. The interior of Holt Renfrew Bloor Street has been designed by Kramer Design Group, with Alex Cochrane Architects designing the new Colette Grand Café.
In March of this year, Holt Renfrew unveiled a 12,000 square foot beauty hall on the concourse level of the Bloor Street flagship, which we featured in an article showcasing its vendor shops and ‘clean beauty’ area. On May 1, Chanel opened its first standalone beauty fragrance and boutique in Canada in a 1,280 square foot space that is connected to Holts, and we’ll be profiling the shop separately next week in a separate article.
The second level of Holts Bloor recently unveiled several temporary accessory shops for some of the brands that will be moving back to the street-level once those renovations are complete. That includes shops for Gucci, Celine, Bottega Veneta, Burberry, Prada and Miu Miu. The second level, which also houses women’s designer ready-to-wear, houses leased concessions for brands including Chanel, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana as well as shops for brands such as Akris and Dolce & Gabbana.
Sources at the store say that the second level will be extended into a large space that is currently not used for retail. The nearly 30,000 square foot space once housed a salon and spa as well as the second level to an Eddie Bauer store, and music retailer HMV. Women’s contemporary collections are expected to be moved to that level from the store’s third floor which will be repurposed to create a 25,000 square foot men’s floor as well as new personal shopping suites, including the luxurious ‘Apartment’ concept that is currently at Holts’ Yorkdale, Square One and Vancouver units. A standalone 16,500 square foot Holt Renfrew Men store at 100 Bloor Street West will eventually close once the new 50 Bloor men’s floor is open.
It’s all part of a $400-million investment by Holt Renfrew into its stores, as well as with its e-commerce site which has seen a substantial upgrade. Other units in the Holt Renfrew chain have been seeing renovations and expansions as Holts beefs up its business in the face of competition from US retailers Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom. Saks entered Canada in February of 2016 and now operates two stores in Toronto and one in Calgary. Nordstrom, which generally carries fewer luxury brands when compared to Holt Renfrew, entered the Canadian market in September of 2014 with a Calgary store, and now operates six Canadian units — three of those are in Toronto as well as individual locations in Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa.
Holt Renfrew is creating something of a ‘luxury ecosystem’ with its stores, which feature a mix of leased concessions and retail departments. Holt Renfrew has partnered with some of the world’s biggest luxury brands to host shops in its stores, with Holts remaining the dominant luxury player in Canada. Holt Renfrew is the only store in Canada to boast concessions for brands such as Chanel, Tiffany & Co. and Hermes, and while Saks and Nordstrom carry some of the brands carried at Holt Renfrew, neither offer the depth and selection found in Holts’ dedicated concessions. Compared to Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus in the United States, Holt Renfrew positions itself as being more ‘youthful’ while at the same time being equally luxury-focused.
Other Holt Renfrew stores are seeing significant changes. The Yorkdale Shopping Centre store in Toronto, which is expanding by about 10,000 square feet to about 130,000 square feet, is seeing a partial renovation that will make the highly productive store even better. An updated men’s department was recently unveiled that includes shop-in-store areas for brands such as Fendi, Gucci, Thom Browne, Valentino and Stone Island, with more on the way as renovations are completed. Three new large-format boutiques will open later this year for brands Dior, Gucci and Fendi, all offering collections for both men and women. The second-level womenswear floor will also see a renovation, as well as “enhanced personal shopping services,” according to Holt Renfrew. A Dior women’s footwear boutique recently opened on the main level of Holts Yorkdale, along with an accessory shop for Valentino and a pop-up shop for luxury jewellery brand Boucheron. The Christian Louboutin boutique on the same level also now carries women’s and men’s footwear after a separate men’s Louboutin concession recently closed as part of the renovation.
The 190,000 square foot CF Pacific Centre Holt Renfrew store has expanded by 40,000 square feet and when finished, about 90% of the store will have been renovated. According to a report in WWD, the store has doubled the number of in-store boutiques to almost 90 with more on the way. The store is said to sell about $400-million annually according to a report in WWD, making it one of the world’s top-selling multi-brand luxury stores. The Yorkdale unit, in comparison, was said to sell about $250-million annually (we’ve been told the number is even higher) with the Bloor Street flagship being third in terms of sales.
In Montreal, the 250,000 square foot Holt Renfrew Ogilvy store recently unveiled two new retail levels. That included an impressive 25,000 square foot concourse-level beauty hall and a 40,000 square foot men’s floor that houses 25 brand boutiques from some of the world’s biggest names. The store’s massive overhaul will be completed next year, which will coincide with the closure of Holt Renfrew’s 83,000 square foot store at 1300 Sherbrooke Street which has been operational since 1937.
We’ll continue to provide updates on the progression of Holt Renfrew’s store overhauls across Canada, including to the Bloor Street flagship which is part of an exciting redevelopment of the block of Bloor Street West between Yonge Street and Bay Street. The adjacent 60 Bloor Street West office tower, which houses Holt Renfrew’s corporate headquarters, is seeing renovations that include a new facade and interior improvements. The Holt Renfrew Centre at 50 Bloor Street West is seeing interior renovations to its concourse level to bring it more in line with the upscale interiors of Holt Renfrew itself. Across the Street, the Manulife Centre podium is seeing an overhaul that saw Maison Birks recently open an updated store, with Eataly and other retailers coming on board in months ahead. At the southwest corner of Yonge and Bloor Streets, Sam Mizrahi’s ‘The ONE’ will be Canada’s tallest tower that will house a three-level Apple flagship as well as a Hyatt-run Andaz Hotel, which was announced publicly on May 1. There are many other things happening in the Bloor-Yorkville area and we’ll also report on these in the weeks ahead.
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. Email Craig: email@example.com