TORONTO — Known as Canada’s merchants since 1670, Hudson’s Bay — the oldest company in North America — has always had a feel for history and epic adventure.
Now the department store chain that spent much of its early existence as a fur-trading business trekking into the great Canadian wilderness is marking the nation’s 150th birthday in 2017 by launching the Grand Portage fund-raising program, a multifaceted undertaking benefiting The Great Trail, the longest recreational trail in the world.
“This initiative is important for us because Hudson’s Bay has always been perceived as a part of the fabric of Canada,” said company president Liz Rodbell, who spoke with WWD prior to HBC’s launch today of the program from Toronto’s scenic lakefront Harbourfront Centre.
Beginning as a proposal in 1992, the Trans-Canada Trail, a not-for-profit organization, set out to create a national trail where Canadians could hike, cycle, paddle, ride, cross-country ski or snowmobile throughout a variety of landscapes nationwide.
To date just over 21,500 kilometres, or 13,359 miles, of TCT’s Great Trail are operational, which represents 91 percent of the proposed cross-country route envisioned by organizers. Its goal is to see The Great Trail completed in 2017 in honor of Canada’s birthday.
Realizing that ambition has now become the raison d’etre for HBC’s Grand Portage program, which launches in store and online this month with the introduction of a 58-piece collection of commemorative products for men, women and children that includes a signature keepsake paddle and keychain, T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, beach towels, journals, iPhone cases and mugs pried from $4 -$119.99 Canadian dollars, or $3 to about $90.
A portion of every purchase made from HBC’s Grand Portage Collection will help support the final completion of TCT’s Great Trail.
Moreover, in keeping with HBC’s historic links to adventure, a three-membered portage team pulled together by the Torque Agency will set off on a cross-country journey beginning June 22, traveling from Victoria, British Columbia to Nova Scotia using Hudson’s Bay’s striped canoe.
Along the way the Grand Portage team will make 10 pit stops in communities where they will engage with special guests, celebrities and consumers, as well as share their adventures on social media using #HBCGrandPortage.
Their journey will culminate in a special celebration in Ottawa on August 26 featuring performers and high-profile figures whose names will be revealed at a later date, according to Rodbell.
“In a way our portage team will be traveling across the country and interacting with Canadians in different markets much like the Olympic flame did a few years back on the way to the Games,” said Rodbell.
“By the time this adventure is completed we hope to have a sizable donation that we can give towards the completion of this important endeavor in this vast beautiful country we call home. But this journey to complete the Great Trail ties in nicely with the Hudson’s Bay’s own adventures over the years,” she added.
“We all knew that Canada’s 150th birthday was coming. That is why it was important for us to find some way to honor this milestone and make that experience meaningful and different to our HBC customers and to Canadians at large. In that respect I think we’ve succeeded,” said Rodbell.