By Craig Patterson
Italian luxury brand Furla has secured its first standalone retail space in Canada as it kicks off a national expansion that could see multiple locations open in a joint venture partnership. Furla the latest international brand to enter the Canadian market by opening direct-to-consumer retail storefronts.
Construction hoarding went up late last week at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre for the new Furla boutique, which will span almost 1,500 square feet according to lease plans. Furla’s Yorkdale location is in a space once occupied by Vince Camuto, strategically positioned across from Holt Renfrew and along a corridor of the shopping centre that is expected to be repositioned for luxury brands over the next couple of years.
Montreal-based Halcyon Brands is bringing the Furla brand back to Canada with standalone stores, and is working with Jeff Berkowitz of Aurora Realty Consultants in its search for retail space for its Canadian expansion.
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.
More Canadian Furla locations are expected. According to Aurora Realty Consultants’ website, Furla seeks standalone retail spaces spanning between 1,000 square feet and 1,500 square feet on major high streets as well as in enclosed malls. While it hasn’t been revealed which cities are in line for new Furla stores, the Toronto and Vancouver markets continue to see the most action from higher-end brands looking to open locations, and Furla’s quality and value proposition might also make it successful in Montreal and possibly in the Calgary and Edmonton markets if the brand gains traction.
Technically this isn’t the first time that Furla has had standalone stores in Canada, though this expansion is said to be an entirely new one under the Halcyon joint venture partnership. Readers may recall past Furla storefronts at 41 Avenue Road (south of the former ‘Hazelton Lanes’) in Toronto as well as at 1008 West Georgia Street (corner of Burrard Street) in Vancouver. Both locations closed well over a decade ago — the Avenue Road building will eventually be demolished for a luxury residential condominium building, and the former Vancouver location will become part of a two-level, 6,000 square foot Hermes flagship store that is expected to open in September.
In Toronto, Yorkdale continues to see more first-to-Canada retail openings than any single location in Canada. The busy shopping centre is also the most productive in Canada in terms of annual sales per square foot, and the centre now boasts more than 30 standalone luxury brand boutiques, with more on the way according to sources.
While Holt Renfrew has been at Yorkdale for decades, the centre’s luxury expansion began to take off after landlord Oxford Properties secured Tiffany & Co. as a tenant in 2009. A ‘luxury run’ spanning northward from Holt Renfrew’s main entrance was created, with luxury brands subsequently being positioned in adjacent corridors. A corridor leading past Furla towards Yorkdale’s Zara and Sephora flagships will be repositioned for luxury brands, including a major luxury brand that will occupy substantial square footage north of the new Furla store. As much of Yorkdale’s square footage becomes occupied by luxury brands, the centre is becoming something like South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, California, which boasts several wings housing many of the world’s biggest names.
We’ll continue to monitor Furla’s store expansion into the Canadian market, as well as report on international brands opening their first stores here. In 2017, Canada saw more than 50 international brands enter the country by opening their first stores, and last year was a robust one with more than 30 international brands opening stores. It appears 2019 could surpass our count for 2018 as brokers and landlords continue to reach out to international brands to expand into the Canadian market.
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