Byline: Brian Dunn

MONTREAL — Banana Republic has crossed borders for the first time. The Gap Inc. division has opened its first store outside the U.S., a 6,100-square-foot unit in the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta. According to the company, four more units will open in Canada by August, and up to 30 are planned over the next five years in Canada. Gap already operates 46 Gap and 26 Baby Gap units in Canada, but now Banana Republic is ripe for expansion. In a year, the division has upgraded its fashion looks, added more career-related products, given a more luxurious look to many of its stores, and has been racking up the biggest gains at the company.
The next four Canadian openings will be in Toronto: in Eaton Centre on Feb. 17; downtown on Bloor Street on March 3; in the Yorkdale Shopping Centre in July, and Sherway Gardens in August. All of the units will be 7,000 to 8,000 square feet. “They should be extraordinary successful, based on the penetration and acceptance of the Gap,” said John Winter, a retail consultant in Toronto. He said the Gap generates sales of about $700 per square foot and Baby Gap’s volume is about $800.
“If you stand outside a Gap store, you can see they deliver a consistent message, whereas the competition has no clear story line,” he said. Banana Republic, he added, also has a consistent concept and the advantage of going into key downtown shopping centers. “With the exiting of many Canadian stores in the Dylex chain, malls are desperate for new tenants, so they can make some good deals on several properties.” Dylex, one of Canada’s largest chains, went bankrupt last month and is closing many stores.
Winter suggested Banana Republic has no real competition in Canada, and could take market share from such chains as Roots, River Road and Eddie Bauer.
— Fairchild News Service