Holt Renfrew

Holt Renfrew, taking another big step to expand its footprint across Canada, will add 40,000 square feet and an array of high-touch experiences to its Vancouver flagship.

Holt Renfrew, taking another big step to expand its footprint across Canada, will add 40,000 square feet and an array of high-touch experiences to its Vancouver flagship.

This story first appeared in the April 24, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The Vancouver store will expand 30 percent to 190,000 square feet with significant space gains set for leather goods, footwear, jewelry, men’s wear and personal shopping. It will also extend its facade on Howe Street to 200 feet from 30 feet; create a separate entrance to the men’s department, and bring the Holt Café and the Apartment residence-in-the-store for wardrobing, personal styling, trunk shows and parties to the bustling West Coast seaport in British Columbia.

The Vancouver overhaul is part of the Toronto-based Holt Renfrew’s strategy to grow square footage by 40 percent to more than 1.2 million square feet. The company has budgeted $300 million for the program and expects to achieve $1 billion in revenues by 2017. Sources estimate volume is about $900 million and square footage exceeds 800,000.

Holt officials declined to disclose the volume of the Vancouver store, but it’s said to be neck-and-neck with the Bloor Street flagship in Toronto as the biggest or second biggest revenue generator in the chain, which operates nine luxury and two off-price units.

Holt needs to tighten its grip on Canada’s luxury market in light of Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue invading Canada with multiple locations. Nordstrom made its Canada debut in Calgary in September and sees up to nine full-line locations. Saks sees seven full-line stores and makes its debut this fall inside the Hudson’s Bay flagship on Queen Street in Toronto. The Nordstrom Rack and Saks Off 5th outlet chains are also coming to Canada, with dozens of sites expected.

However, Mark Derbyshire, Holt’s president, said his company’s expansion and Vancouver project are not predicated on the incoming competition. “Competition brings out the best in everybody, but we’ve always had a lot of competition,” Derbyshire told WWD. “Our customers travel the world, to New York, Paris, Vancouver, Hong Kong. Anywhere they go, there’s always a boutique down the street or a department store across the block. This [the Vancouver expansion] is about ensuring our store is a great spot to buy product and have a great experience. It’s not about a transaction. It’s about building a relationship with the customer for life. Vancouver customers are very sophisticated. They have a very urban outlook. We see that in our ability to introduce new brands here.” The Vancouver project, Derbyshire added, “is about increasing our space and continuing to evolve the experiences we provide.”

Asked whether the store will add designer brands currently not carried, Derbyshire replied, “Vancouver is really a very advanced shop for us with a strong offering. It’s about deepening those relationships we have already and presenting [designer collections] stronger than we do today. We always have things coming and going.”

Derbyshire said Holt Renfrew is halfway to reaching its goal of growing 40 percent. Last year, Holt unveiled its expanded Yorkdale store in Toronto; its first men’s-only store, at 100 Bloor Street West in Toronto; revealed that a store in the Square One shopping center in Mississauga will open in spring 2016, and unveiled plans to upgrade the Ogilvy store in Montreal, and enhance and expand the Calgary unit. The company will soon disclose plans for renovating its Bloor Street flagship in Toronto and is considering ways to expand its presence in Edmonton.

Holt Renfrew opened in Vancouver in 1975 and rebuilt the store in 2007. It’s situated on Dunsmuir Street, West Pender Alley, Granville Street and part of Howe Street. With the expansion, Holt will occupy almost all of Howe and roughly 75 percent of the area outlined by the four blocks. Janson Goldstein designed the 2007 flagship and is working on the redesign. Construction, beginning in August, is expected to be finished by the end of 2016.

Holt’s personal shopping complex at the Vancouver store will increase from 4,000 to 7,000 square feet, and include the 1,000-square-foot Apartment, which will have a rooftop patio and garden patio. “In our personal shopping suites, you will see real flexibility in how they are sized” to accommodate one-on-one shopping or group shopping, Derbyshire said. The personal shopping complex will extend over two floors, with an elevator that takes clients from the valet parking directly to the suites.