By Craig Patterson
Swiss luxury watch and accessory brand TAG Heuer will open its first standalone Canadian storefront at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre this fall. It’s yet another international brand to open a direct-to-consumer retail space in Canada at a time when multi-brand retailers are fighting for market share. It’s also another coup for Yorkdale, which launches more first-to-Canada retail brands than any place in the country.
Construction is now underway for the Yorkdale TAG Heuer boutique, which will measure about 740 square feet according to lease plans. The store will be located in the centre of the mall next to prestigious eyewear brand Oliver Peoples that we featured in an article last year, with nearby luxury brands including Montblanc, Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget, Panerai, IWC Schaffhausen, Vacheron Constantin, David Yurman, Chloé, Saint Laurent and others.
Retail construction specialist Amachris Corporation will build out the Yorkdale TAG Heuer space — Amachris recently completed construction on a stunning 6,000 square foot Gucci concession at Holt Renfrew Yorkdale (we’ll showcase it next week in Retail Insider).
TAG Heuer is a Swiss luxury manufacturing company that designs, manufactures and markets watches and fashion accessories. It also licenses its name for eyewear and mobile phones, and markets a line of men’s accessories including wallets, belts, bags, jackets, bracelets and cufflinks. The company was founded in 1860 by Edouard Heuer. In 1999, French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH acquired 100% of TAG Heuer. The name TAG Heuer combines the initials of "Techniques d'Avant Garde" with the founder's surname.
Prices for TAG Heuer watches can be well into the thousands of dollars, depending on the design and materials used. The company has innovated with its designs over the years. In 1911, Heuer received a patent for the "Time of Trip", which was the first dashboard chronograph that was designed for use in automobiles and aircraft. Its design includes two large hands that are mounted from the center pinion to indicate the time of day, while a small pair of hands, mounted at the top of the dial (12 o'clock position) indicates the duration of the trip.
Today, many of TAG Heuer’s watch designs are chronographs, and are highly desirable to a market seeking quality as well as brand recognition. TAG Heuer has also paid numerous celebrities over the years to endorse its products with a few names such as Tiger Woods, Leonardo DeCaprio, Brad Pitt and others.
TAG Heuer’s corporate store comes at a time when there’s unprecedented competition amongst multi-brand jewelry stores in Canada. Retailers are fighting for market share at a time when some retailers are struggling. The average consumer is less likely to wear a watch at a time when most carry smart phones, and consumer shopping patterns are also shifting.
At the same time, luxury watch brands have been opening standalone units in Canada, many of which are corporately-owned. At Yorkdale last year, luxury conglomerate Richemont opened units for Panerai, Vacheron Constantin and IWC Schaffhausen while in Vancouver, the same brands have opened stores along the city’s Alberni Street luxury run. Breitling opened a partner shop at Yorkdale last year and Patek Philippe opened a standalone unit in partnership with Birks in Vancouver earlier this year as well.
In the Toronto area, several prominent jewellery retailers carry the TAG Heuer brand, and all are fighting to maintain market share as well as keep rights to distributing the brands carried in their stores. Maison Birks’ Yorkdale, Bloor Street, CF Fairview Mall, CF Sherway Gardens and CF Fairview locations feature small TAG Heuer shop-in-stores. Family-owned Toronto-based multi-brand jeweller European Boutique opened a licensed TAG Heuer boutique in its renovated CF Sherway Gardens location in the fall of 2017, and the retailer also features TAG Heuer areas in its CF Toronto Eaton Centre and Square One locations. Hudson’s Bay’s CF Toronto Eaton Centre flagship carries an assortment of TAG Heuer watches, as do jewellers such as Bandiera, Berani, L’Oro, and several others carry the line. Raffi Jewellers’ Yorkdale location includes a selection of TAG Heuer. The standalone Yorkdale TAG Heuer could take market share from multi-brand retailers and there’s always a question of if brands will pull lines from multi-brand stores as the brands themselves increasingly adopt direct-to-consumer retail models.
Now more than ever, brands are foregoing franchised and licensed boutique locations and are instead opening corporately-owned storefronts. Some multi-brand retailers are saying that the phenomenon is causing frustration because of increased competition. If brands don’t already have Canadian e-commerce sites, they are often introducing them as part of the market penetration strategy as brands also open brick-and-mortar corporate stores.
Canada is expected to see more corporately-owned TAG Heuer storefronts after the opening of the Yorkdale location this fall. TAG Heuer is popular amongst Asian consumers, which indicates the possibility that the brand will seek at least one location in the Vancouver area. As in Toronto, various multi-brand retailers in the Vancouver area carry the TAG Heuer line, and they will no doubt be watching as TAG Heuer continues to expand its direct-to-consumer stores in the Canadian market.
Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre has seen a flurry of leasing activity recently, including the addition of several new luxury retailers. Over the past several months, storefronts for brands such as Bottega Veneta and Valentino have opened, and luxury anchor Holt Renfrew is also adding large luxury brand concessions for brands such as Gucci, Fendi, Dior and Burberry, all of which will be considered ‘world of’ boutiques that carry brands’ full assortments of bags, accessories, footwear and ready-to-wear. Hugo Boss is relocating its Yorkdale store into a much larger space nearby, and sources confirm that several more luxury brand announcements will be coming for the shopping centre in the coming weeks and months. Yorkdale boasts the highest concentration of luxury brand stores of any place in Canada, surpassing the luxury brand store count of Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville as well as downtown Vancouver’s ‘Luxury Zone’. Yorkdale is also Canada’s most productive shopping centre in terms of annual sales per square foot, surpassing $1,900 last year according to a Retail Council of Canada study.
TAG Heuer is the latest international brand to enter the Canadian market by opening a standalone storefront. In 2018, we tracked more than 30 international retailers that entered Canada by opening stores, and more than 50 in 2017. The momentum seems to be ongoing and in January, we’ll review all of the new 2019 entrants in a feature article.
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