MONTREAL — Holt Renfrew & Co. is closing its suburban store here in the Rockland Shopping Center, when its lease expires on July 31.

The Toronto-based, privately held retailer has nine remaining stores across Canada. It said the 21,000-square-foot Rockland store is making money, but it isn’t willing to make the necessary investment for the outlet to remain profitable. Instead, Holt’s plans to renovate and expand its downtown Sherbrooke Street store here.

The 65,000-square-foot downtown outlet has the potential to reach 100,000 square feet and details of the expansion will be announced soon, Holt’s said. The 70 employees at the Rockland store will be given priority for any jobs available in the chain.

The Rockland outlet was last renovated in 1983 and needs a facelift. It only makes sense to spend the money on the downtown store, said Nicole Parisien, vice president and regional general manager of Holt’s.

"People respond well to the Sherbrooke Street store, especially tourists, which we don’t get at Rockland. The [Sherbrooke] store was renovated and the selling space doubled in 1995, when more new lines were added."

The Rockland store is also facing an aging demographic, especially among a declining wealthy English-speaking population that is its core customer, according to retail consultant Richard Talbot of Talbot Consultants International, Toronto.

"It’s an older and inefficient format. They would have to upgrade the store to attract a younger shopper."

Holt’s is smart to focus its energy on upgrading its Sherbrooke Street outlet because there has been a resurgence in the downtown area with several high-end stores clustered together, added Talbot.

"As a result, high-end shoppers are not going to go to Rockland when they have more choices downtown."

Talbot suggested that the Holt’s in Edmonton, Alberta, is another question mark in terms of performance.

"With higher energy prices, the Alberta economy is on an upswing and so is Holt’s," he said. "But when there’s a downturn, the Edmonton store, unlike Calgary, seems to have problems."

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