By Craig Patterson
Minimalist Japanese retailer Muji is continuing with its Canadian store expansion, which includes opening new locations as well as expanding existing units. This week, construction hoarding went up at the Guildford Town Centre in suburban Vancouver for a two-level Muji store that will span more than 15,800 square feet over two levels.
At that size, the Muji store at Guildford Town Centre will become the largest Muji store in the Vancouver area, and the second largest in Canada. Only the downtown Toronto flagship, which expanded to nearly 20,000 square feet last year, will be larger in this country. The Toronto store is currently the largest Muji location outside of Asia, though we’re told bigger units are in the works.
The two-level Guildford Town Centre Muji store will include 8,375 square feet on the mall’s main level with an additional 7,465 square feet upstairs for a total of 15,839 square feet. The store will be located in the centre of the busy shopping centre as per floor plans below. The store is expected to feature many of the offerings found in Muji’s flagship units in Toronto and Vancouver that include coffee counters, aroma bars, plants and customization areas that include labels, stamps, digital fabric printing, and laser engraving.
The new Guildford Town Centre Muji location will also be the second in Canada to span two levels. The Toronto flagship also encompasses two floors after its expansion.
In the Vancouver market, Muji opened its first store at Metropolis at Metrotown in August of 2017, followed by a large flagship on Robson Street in December of that year. The Robson Street store is currently the largest in the region with 14,507 square feet of retail space. The Metropolis at Metrotown store, which was 7,770 square feet when it first opened, was expanded to 12,305 square feet in order to also bring it more in line with the offerings at the Robson Street flagship, with both units being among the top sellers in the chain in North America. Muji’s CF Richmond Centre store, which opened in 2018 with 6,252 square feet of retail space, expanded to an impressive 9,212 square feet in February of this year.
Remarkably, all four Vancouver-Area Muji stores will be large enough to be considered as flagship stores. In Toronto, the recently expanded downtown flagship is the only one to boast such a size and expansive product and service offering.
Muji entered the Canadian market in November of 2014 when it opened the downtown Toronto store which, at the time, measured only about 4,400 square feet. Muji has since opened four other stores in the Greater Toronto Area. That includes a 5,225 square foot store at Mississauga’s Square One in November of 2015, followed by the October 2016 opening at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre (6,375 square feet) and the Summer 2017 debut of a 6,000 square foot space at CF Markville, north of Toronto. A store at Scarborough Town Centre, measuring about 6,800 square feet, opened in March of 2018.
Muji has been re-evaluating its Canadian operations and as part of that, it is looking to open larger stores. That’s according to Masaaki Kanai, Chairman of parent company Ryohin Keikaku, who told us in an interview last year that Muji is not only looking at opening substantially larger stores, but that it is also considering opening grocery stores, hotels, designing public realm, and even getting into residential development.
The Montreal market is expected to be a target for Muji with sources saying that a location could open as early as 2020. The Edmonton and Calgary markets are also expected to be targets for Muji as it expands nationally by opening stores. In an interview in 2017, Muji’s Canadian President/US CEO Toru Akita said that he expected MUJI to operate between 15 and 20 stores in Canada by the year 2020. Given the dynamic nature of the company as of late, that number could be modified as Muji looks to new concepts as it grows its identity as a lifestyle brand.
Brokerage CBRE has been involved with Muji’s negotiations across Canada, led by Arlin Markowitz, Senior Vice President of CBRE's Downtown Toronto Urban Retail Team. CBRE Vancouver's office, including Martin Moriarty and Mario Negris, were involved in negotiating the four Vancouver deals, including the two expansions.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org