November 25, 2014 11:54 am
Updated: November 25, 2014 12:55 pm

Women’s clothing store Smart Set to shut down, owner Reitmans says

Iconic Canadian retailer Reitmans is shutting down its Smart Set banner is copes with heightened competition.

Louie Palu/Canadian Press

Reitmans, one of Canada’s biggest and most established sellers of women’s clothing, is shutting down one of its biggest banners in Smart Set after an attempt to revitalize the line faltered.

Reitmans said Tuesday it will be closing 31 Smart Set stores at malls and other retail locations across the country, while converting another 76 to its flagship brand.

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Smart Set is the latest casualty in a line of Canadian retailers this year to succumb in an environment where bigger players are moving in on territory long held by established chains like Smart Set and others.

U.S. department store Target, which counts fashionable women’s apparel as a signature product category, has opened 133 stores across Canada over the past 20 months. Hudson’s Bay has also stepped up efforts this year as it refocuses on a new merchandising strategy.

MORE: Quebec clothing retailer Simons expanding stores across Canada

In May, rival women’s clothier Jacob filed for bankruptcy and said it would sell off its stores and inventory. The chain of mostly women’s work clothing and apparel operated 92 stores.

Reitmans said Tuesday it will close Smart Set over the next 12 to 18 months. In addition to Smart Set, Reitmans also operates other clothing banners found at shopping centres across Canada, including Penningtons, Addition Elle, RW & CO., and Thyme Maternity.

“Despite some improvements in the performance of the Smart Set banner, management has determined that its optimum strategy to improve its operating results is to refocus its sales and merchandising efforts,” Reitmans said in a statement.

Smart Set represents about 10 per cent of the Montreal-based company’s annual sales, amounting to approximately $96 million for the year ended Feb. 1.

Smart Set joins a host of chains to cease operations or file for bankruptcy this year as consumers face a growing array of new retailers to shop from.

MORE: U.S. retail giants squeeze out Bowring, Benix and Bombay & Co.

Bombay & Co. Inc., Bowring & Co. Inc. and Benix & Co. Inc filed for creditor protection in August. The trio operate more than 119 locations.

On top of Target’s arrival, U.S.-based rivals such Bed Bath and Beyond, Home Sense and Williams-Sonoma have stepped up their efforts to grow in Canada in recent years.

“The housewares industry in Canada has become increasingly competitive, particularly with the recent entry of large-scale retail chains into the sector,” Fred Benitah, the head of the company that owns the three stores, said in a bankruptcy court filing.

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