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Topshop, David’s Bridal Heading to Canada

A growing number of retailers are developing plans for expansion in the country.

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Topshop is coming to Canada via a franchising deal with the Hudson’s Bay Co.

This story first appeared in the March 9, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

And Hudson’s Bay will be moving fast to open locations for Topshop, and its men’s wear counterpart Topman, as either stand-alone stores or shop-in-shops inside The Bay department stores as soon as this fall.

“Our first three are planned for Toronto, then Vancouver then Montreal,” Bonnie Brooks, president and chief executive officer of The Bay, told WWD. “In three to five years, we could have as many as 30 to 50, with probably the majority being shop-in-shops.”

Brooks would not detail the initial locations, but sources said the first Topshops will open inside The Bay in Toronto, specifically units on Bloor Street and on Yonge Street, as well as in the Yorkdale and Sherway Gardens malls. In some cases, they could be as large as 15,000 square feet and situated in men’s, women’s and accessories departments on two or three floors. The 92-unit Bay operates six giant flagships in Canada each in excess of 600,000 square feet. They could easily accommodate Topshops. David Kutas, who left Gucci in New York a few months ago, where he served as vice president and general merchandise manager for Gucci America, will be supervising The Bay’s Topshop operation.

The Bay is expected to officially unveil the deal today. It underscores the increasingly global nature of retail and Canada’s appeal. Earlier this year, Hudson’s Bay unveiled a deal with Target Corp. to provide the discounter with 100 to 150 locations by 2014 from its Zellers chain, which is being downsized. And just last week, David’s Bridal opened its first two Canadian stores, marking the company’s first international venture.

Limited Brands Inc. recently expanded into Canada with Victoria’s Secret, Pink and Bath & Body Works, and also owns the Canada-based La Senza intimate apparel chain. Intermix will open a 2,500-square-foot flagship on Bloor Street in the fall, and plans a Canadian rollout. Kohl’s, J.C. Penney, Macy’s and Kmart are among the American retailers with no stores in Canada, with Kohl’s the most eager to expand across borders, according to sources. Retailers already operating in Canada include Wal-Mart and Lowe’s.

Canada is considered ripe for expansion because there’s less competition there, it’s right across the U.S. border and Canadians complain about a lack of shopping opportunities at home. “Those in the know have been anxiously waiting for Topshop and Topman to come to Canada on a large scale,” Brooks said. “We will be buying the product from Topshop and Topman and paying a royalty based on purchases.”

Deliveries will arrive once or twice a month to keep the trendy and often irreverent Topshop assortment fresh. Brooks has been bringing in many new brands to elevate the offering and productivity of The Bay. “Most of the cool brands are already in Canada in some form, but Topshop changes the landscape for The Bay. We have been working on this deal for a couple of years,” she said.

“This represents another step in our continued international growth,” added Sir Philip Green, owner of the Arcadia Group, which owns Topshop and Topman. The British-based retailer already has franchises in the Middle East and Europe, and is considering the Far East. Topshop opened a flagship in April 2009 in the SoHo section of New York, and has openings set for Brazil and Chicago.

The 300-unit David’s Bridal chain, privately owned by Leonard Green & Partners, last week opened stores in the Meadowvale Shopping Centre in Mississauga, Ontario, and in the Smart Centre Scarborough in the Scarborough section of Toronto. “Canada is a proving ground,” Brian Beitler, David’s Bridal executive vice president and chief marketing officer, told WWD. “It’s our first international foray and potential stepping stone” to other foreign countries. “But at this point, it’s premature to really talk about the next steps. Our goal was to enter Canada, demonstrate it’s a viable market and see what the future holds. We take things one step at a time.”

Beitler said David’s Bridal could open 10 to 12 stores in Canada and expects to unveil more sites this year. The stores will be 8,000 to 10,000 square feet, like the U.S. fleet. The chain sells bridal gowns, bridal party, special occasion and prom dresses, and accessories. The bridalwear is priced from $299 to $1,600, including designer gowns from White by Vera Wang, launched last month, as well as those under the Oleg Cassini and Galina Signature labels. Unlike most bridal salons, David’s Bridal carries a large assortment, in regular, petite and large sizes.

“Everything in our U.S. stores will be, for the most part, in our Canadian stores,” Beitler said. “Canadians have the same desire for quality, style and design at amazing values. That’s why they were right for us. We expect our entry will be a game changer for the Canadian bridal market.”

Also on the international front, Aéropostale Inc. said Tuesday it signed a licensing agreement with Montreal PTE Ltd., a joint venture between Apparel Group LLC and Jay Gee Melwani Group, to open approximately 25 stores in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia over the next five years. The first store is scheduled to open in Singapore later this year.

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