Mass Store Closures in Canada Escalate Significantly Amid COVID-19 Pandemic [Update]

Stores continue to close in Canada amid the COVID-19 pandemic, while landlords permit reduced operating hours and, in some cases, reduce hours altogether. Some on social media are shaming retailers that remain open for the time being, which could result in a flood of further store closures this week as well as the shuttering of some shopping centre properties. By the end of the day on Wednesday, many of Canada’s major retail chains in Canada announced temporary store closures except for grocery and pharmacy retailers as well as large-format variety retailers such as Walmart and Canadian Tire.

Some had expected governments to announce the shutdown of all non-essential retailers in Canada on Tuesday, though as of press time that has yet to happen. Thousands of store locations have closed in Canada since Friday temporarily for two weeks or more. In some parts of Canada, restaurants and bars have been ordered to close amid a ‘social distancing’ movement.

Hundreds of stores closed on Monday and Tuesday of this week, with hundreds more expected to close on Wednesday as the situation accelerates. Iconic Canadian retailer Hudson’s Bay Company, which operates 89 stores across the country and turns 350 years old on May 2nd, announced Tuesday afternoon that stores will remain closed for at least two weeks. “The health and well-being of our associates, customers and communities is our top priority, and remains at the forefront as we make decisions in this rapidly-evolving situation,” said Iain Nairn, President of Hudson’s Bay. “This is the right thing to do as we all work together to stay healthy and limit the spread of the virus.” For those who bought online intending to pick up orders in Hudson’s Bay stores, orders will be delivered via curbside pickup solutions and other means. The company’s website will remain operational including online shopping.

[Related, Monday’s top Story: Stores Close and Malls Reduce Hours in Canada Amid COVID-19 Pandemic]

HARRY ROSEN AT YORKDALE SHOPPING CENTRE. PHOTO: HARRY ROSEN

Saks Fifth Avenue’s two Toronto locations and its Calgary store will shut, as will all 18 Saks OFF 5TH stores in Canada.

Hudson’s Bay is the second department store in Canada to announce temporary store closures. We reported on Tuesday that Nordstrom had shut its six full-line Canadian stores as well as six Nordstrom Rack locations. Nordstrom has yet to launch a Canadian ecommerce site which means it is particularly exposed to the store closures.

Luxury multi-brand retailer Holt Renfrew announced Tuesday evening that all of its stores would be closing in Canada. This could delay the opening of Holt Renfrew Ogilvy in Montreal which was scheduled to open on April 10.

HOLT RENFREW BLOOR STREET IN TORONTO AS IT WILL APPEAR WHEN ITS FACADE IS COMPLETED THIS SPRING. RENDERING: HOLT RENFREW

On Tuesday afternoon, Toronto-based luxury menswear retailer Harry Rosen announced that it would shutter its Canadian stores at the end of the day including two Zegna-branded stores as well as Harry Rosen outlet stores. All stores will remain closed until March 31 at the earliest according to CEO Larry Rosen.

On Wednesday afternoon/evening, Spanish retail behemoth Zara announced that its Canadian stores had closed indefinitely. Montreal-based fashion brand Le Chateau also announced temporary store closures.

Ikea announced Wednesday morning that it was closing its Canadian stores temporarily amid the outbreak and that workers would be paid. “We continue to be concerned about our co-workers’ livelihoods, which is why we are committed to paying all co-workers for their scheduled hours during these challenging times; additionally we are currently looking at new opportunities for our retail co-workers including cross-training, supporting other areas of the business, as well as focusing on eLearning, competence development and other training opportunities.” 

Montreal-based fashion retailer Le Chateau announced Wednesday afternoon that its stores would be closed until at least March 29.

US retailer Gap Inc. announced Wednesday that it was shutting its stores, including the Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic stores in Canada. An Intermix store on Bloor Street West in Toronto also closed.

Montreal-based footwear retailer Aldo announced Tuesday afternoon that all of its stores in Canada would close along with units in the United States, the UK, France, and Ireland through March 31. Montreal-based Browns Shoes, which operates stores across Canada under Browns, B2, and Browns Outlet, announced Monday evening that its stores would shutter “until further notice” with consumers encouraged to shop online which offers free shipping and returns and “heightened health precautions”. In Montreal, the unique and edgy five-level SSENSE store and cafe in Old Montreal has closed temporarily as announced on Monday. The retailer will continue to operate online where it does robust business

Montreal-based vegan accessory brand Matt & Nat announced Monday afternoon that it would shut all of its stores temporarily. Montreal-based footwear brand L’Intervalle has also temporarily shut its stores as announced Tuesday afternoon.

ALDO PHOTO: THE GARDENS MALL

Toronto-based Canada Goose shut its seven Canadian stores for at least two weeks as of Tuesday, as well as stores in the US. Production of Canada Goose’s outerwear and fashion has been halted as well. Canada Goose stores are highly productive and an eighth Canadian store is under construction at CF Toronto Eaton Centre.

H&M, CF TORONTO EATON CENTRE. PHOTO: H&M

Swedish fast-fashion retailer H&M announced that its stores in Canada would shutter temporarily as of the end of the day Tuesday. That includes sister brand COS which operates stores in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Japanese retailer Muji announced Tuesday that it would shut its stores in Canada, which are located in the Greater Toronto and Vancouver markets. Muji is in the process of expanding into new markets in Canada. Japanese retailer Uniqlo recently closed its North America stores for the short term. Retailer ‘Guess? Inc.’ shut its stores as of Tuesday in Canada and will evaluate the situation on March 27.

Microsoft announced Tuesday that its stores would close temporarily — the brand operates interactive showrooms in major malls similar to Apple, which also shut its stores in Canada over the weekend.

US retailer J.Crew, which has been quietly closing its Canadian stores, shut its remaining three Canadian locations as of Tuesday. So did Burton snowboards which operates stores in Toronto and Montreal. Exercise bike brand Peloton closed its Canadian showrooms on Monday for two weeks. Footwear and accessory brand Steve Madden has shut its stores until at least March 27, including its SHOO location at CF Toronto Eaton Centre. Footwear brand Vans has shut its Canadian stores. Bath and Body Works announced Monday evening that its stores would shutter with no timeline given for reopening. Beauty brands Saje Natural Wellness, Aesop, and Sephora are shuttering stores in Canada temporarily — some had suggested given Sephora’s high-touch environment, stores should have been closed last week.

Montreal correspondent Maxime Frechette notified us of other store closures that include Foot Locker, American Eagle, Lacoste, Samsung, Coach, Club Monaco, Reitmans, RW&CO, Thyme Maternity, Laura, Nespresso, and Addition Elle. Mr Frechette also notified us that Gucci will be closing its two standalone Canadian stores as of Wednesday, as will Dior (with standalone stores in Toronto and Vancouver) and other luxury brands are also doing so. That includes Kering-owned brands Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga, all of which have standalone stores at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre. Saint Laurent also operates a store in Vancouver on Thurlow Street and it as well as all of Kering’s Canadian stores closed Tuesday. Upscale bag and accessory brand Furla, which operates at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre, also confirmed on Tuesday that it was shut temporarily.

Mr. Frechette also notified us Tuesday evening that Quebec City-based fashion retailer La Maison Simons is shutting all stores temporarily for “an indefinite period”. Simons operates 13 stores across the country including in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. On Wednesday, Mr. Frechette noted that French sports behemoth Decathlon had announced its Canadian stores were to close for the short term.

Montreal-based jeweller Maison Birks announced Wednesday that its stores are closed, and Mr. Frechette noted that the Birks Hotel in Montreal has also closed temporarily.

Retail Insider continues to receive updates on stores closing in Canada and is updating this article through Wednesday. Struggling Victoria’s Secret will shut its Canadian stores at least until March 29. The Body Shop, which unveiled a first-of-its-kind flagship in Vancouver last week, has shut stores indefinitely. Sports retailers Adidas and Reebok have shut stores, and beauty retailer Kiehl’s shut its stores “until further notice.” DSW Shoes has shut all of its Canadian stores. Williams Sonoma, along with sister brands Pottery Barn and West Elm, will shut until April 2. US retailer L.L. Bean has shut its first Canadian store in Oakville. All Ralph Lauren outlet stores in Canada will be shut from Wednesday until at least April 1. Columbia Sportswear has shuttered. US-based women’s brand Chico’s is closing its five Canadian stores temporarily.

SEPHORA. CF TORONTO EATON CENTRE. PHOTO: QUADRANGLE

Toronto-based Indigo announced Tuesday evening that its stores would close until at least March 27. Luxury jeweller Tiffany & Co. also announced its stores would close as of Wednesday —Tiffany has standalone stores in major markets including Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton as well as concessions in several Holt Renfrew stores.

Ascena-owned Ann Taylor, LOFT and Justice have shuttered Canadian stores as of Wednesday. US-based fashion retailer UNTUCKit, which has opened several stores in Canada over the past two years, has shut all stores until at least March 31. Roots announces all stores would close Wednesday until at least March 31. Toronto-based Sporting Life Tuesday announced that all of its stores would close at least until March 30. David’s Tea shut its 230 North American stores Tuesday until further notice. PVH-owned locations for Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Van Heusen will be closing at least until March 29 and all employees will be paid for the time period.

Vancouver-based menswear retailer Boys’Co shut its stores Tuesday at 5:00 pm along with other smaller chains across Canada. The company is looking to mark its 75th year in 2021.

With the cruise season put on hold, retailers in Vancouver and Halifax that cater to tourists stand to suffer if they remain open at all. In Vancouver, the historic Gastown area is a destination for cruise ship passengers, as is the Alberni Street ‘Luxury Zone’ and retail at CF Pacific Centre. The closing of Canada’s borders will also have a profound effect on tourism which will impact downtown Vancouver as well as luxury retail in downtown Toronto and at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre, which on Tuesday was said to be “quiet” with plenty of parking spaces available.

Some have taken to social media to express displeasure that some retailers are choosing to stay open at this time. Given the potential for social shaming, it is likely that many, if not almost all larger and smaller retailers in the country will announce store closures over the next two days. This will result in a temporary collapse in the Canadian retail industry which will put some struggling retailers in a precarious position from which they may never recover.

CF TORONTO EATON CENTRE. PHOTO: CADILLAC FAIRVIEW

Shopping centre landlords in Canada are keeping properties open for now. Cadillac Fairview announced that it was reducing operating hours on its properties, while landlords Oxford Properties, Ivanhoé Cambridge, QuadReal, and others are allowing retailers to remain open in its malls on a reduced schedule.

After Retail Insider reported on Monday that malls would remain open, we received numerous comments from readers and social media followers questioning why malls are remaining open at all. A potential backlash could see landlords choose to temporarily close mall properties entirely in the coming days. Given how many stores have already shuttered temporarily in Canada and given that food and beverage retailers have been mandated to shutter in some markets, there may be little point in malls remaining open regardless.

We will continue to monitor the situation and update our reporting this week at a time of chaos in the retail industry in Canada as well as globally.

[Related, Monday’s top Story: Stores Close and Malls Reduce Hours in Canada Amid COVID-19 Pandemic]

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson
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.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. Can we please get TJX and all their stores to close. My mother who is immunocompromised has to go into work, and she is seeing all these other retailers close their doors and asking why not hers when they have customers coming in shopping and coughing on all the product. With all these other retailers closing why have they not shuttered their doors as well. They are putting the lives of their workers and families in danger. It is grossly irresponsible, seeing as one of the stores in my city has already put 4 employees on quarantine (they may have covid-19 but can not test for it)

    • Good news, they are closing and paying their employees at least for 2 weeks. As they can well afford to do. Hope everyone is safe.

      • That is a little privileged of you to be saying. You are right, health is number 1, but in reality health is not wealth. Good health is a blessing, but wealth is something entirely different. The reality is that even with measures to protect small business, we are at the mercy of the landlords, who as a whole tend not to be merciful. I understand helena’s concerns, they are very valid. While landlords and suppliers may put off debt repayment, it will have to be repaid. It will be difficult for independent retailers to make up that money and continue forward. My heart goes out to them. Many will be out of business. Helena, I pray that you find the best way forward for your business and hopes that your community rallies to support you when things get better.

  2. I am appalled that Canadian Tire and SportChek continue to be open. Clearly these stores do not have a shred of humanity regarding their employees or customers’ health. For shame!

    • Actually like Walmart, Canadian Tire has deemed itself essential, (that’s where tons get their hand sanitizers and masks, not to mention car repairs etc.) They have closed their Sportcheck and Mark’s stores. So not so shameful.

  3. All stores that are non essential should be closed!
    Those who choose to stay open are in my opinion greedy and in no way care about their employees or the people in general. It’s not just about the profit!!! #DOYOURPART #FLATTENTHECURVE

    Urban planet ( YM INC) – shame on you Michael Gold!!
    Winners (TJMax) Shame on you!!!!!

    and to all others who remain open !

  4. If consumers stop shopping all stores will close because their labour costs will be greater than their profits. Do your part and stay home. You can shop online.

  5. Are landlords that stupid? or just greedy? It is time for landlords to do the right thing and close Malls. It is just not fair to retailers/employees who have to carry the load on their own – landlords have to line up like the rest of us – and take their share of meds. Get with it – and help the situ.

  6. Close retail like Walmart,super stores and others,,we have to work because they are open ,,this is not fare ,because some people like to eat fresh food why associates must be in danger ? close everywhere for 14 days and force people stay at home ,,

  7. yes close every single store and that includes grocery stores and pharmacies for a year and a half until a vaccine is found

  8. So basically the high end clothing stores are set to close, but people can still purchase their essentials like food. Now may not be the time to be out shopping for a new $2500 outfit, so it totally makes sense.

    Not sure how or why this is a story.

    It sucks these people are being laid off like the rest of us, believe me. There are lots of other things to write about, not the fact that Tiffany might not be able to go buy her $1000 Gianvito pumps.

    • Mr. Keddy: I was reporting on the mass closures of stores in Canada earlier last month. It was indeed newsworthy at the time as many were in shock. I have no idea what your point is about "not sure how or why this is a story".

      The fact that you’re aware of Gianvito Rossi as a footwear designer shows you have more knowledge and interest in luxury brands than the average consumer. If you do end up buying a pair when this is all over, I’d love to see a photo of you in them.

  9. i need grocery stores and pharmacies and staples and canadian tire and home depot !! we ate not all healthy and online geeks to stay alive !!!

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