Holt Renfrew closing Edmonton store in 2020 to focus on bigger locations

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WATCH ABOVE: Holt Renfrew announced Tuesday it is closing its Edmonton store in 2020 to focus on a large-format store model. Albert Delitala has the details. – May 14, 2019

Canadian luxury store Holt Renfrew is in the midst of a $400-million expansion plan, however that has come at the expense of the 69-year-old location in Edmonton.

The company is closing its “small-format” store in downtown Edmonton’s Manulife Place, as part of its ongoing strategy to focus on a large-format store model.

“The decision to close our smallest regional store in Edmonton was difficult, and we did not take the decision lightly,” Holt Renfrew chief operating officer Robert Zeidel said about the location at 102 Avenue and 101 Street.

“This store is led by a great team that has performed well and we’ve cherished our history in the community.”

The company said it “explored a number of options for our business in Edmonton,” but did not elaborate on why a larger location in the city was not picked in favour of closure.

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The company said after looking at a variety of options in the area and careful financial and market analysis, it was determined that “Holt Renfrew’s enhanced specialty luxury business model requires a significantly larger store footprint to host the experiences and deep merchandise offering of its core brand partners.”

The retailer carries high-end fashion brands such as Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Valentino, among others.

The store has operated in Edmonton since 1950.

When asked about the closure, Mayor Don Iveson said it’s not necessarily indicative of problems downtown.

“Retailers are going to make their own decisions, that’s really up to them. Retail is changing all around the world, lots of businesses are making different decisions. I wouldn’t read too much into it.”

Iveson noted there is still a loss to the community, in terms of the philanthropic work Holt Renfrew staff have done.

He sees the store’s location as an opportunity for another business.

“Hopefully something can backfill because that’s a pretty important space in a pretty important building in the core. It’ll be right on the front door of LRT in the not-too-distant future. It’ll be an attractive location for somebody.”

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A report by online retail industry publication Retail Insider predicted the Edmonton location’s demise last year. It said if the Louis Vuitton boutique inside Holt Renfrew were to exit the store and relocate, it could signal the end of Holt’s run in Edmonton.

A stand-alone Louis Vuitton store is opening inside West Edmonton Mall this year, with signage up outside a second-level location near where Tiffany & Co., Coach, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Lacoste and other upscale storefronts have opened in recent years.

When asked if that affected the decision, Zeidel said Louis Vuitton is a valued partner of Holt Renfrew in many of its stores across the country and will continue to operate in the Edmonton location for the remainder of 2019.

“Ultimately, the decision to close the Edmonton location was based on our larger-format strategy that includes a presence from a variety of core brand partners,” he said in a statement.

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In 2015, the company also closed locations in Ottawa and Quebec City. The company said its business model required “a significantly larger store footprint” at that time as well.

At that time, Craig Patterson — an analyst who runs Retail Insider — said the company was consolidating stores in anticipation of losing market share to U.S. luxury retailers like Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue.

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On Tuesday, Patterson said the closure did not come as a surprise.

“Holt Renfrew’s retail strategy has been to operate in stores that span in excess of 120,000 square feet,” he explained. “The downtown Edmonton Holt Renfrew store is about 32,000 square feet of retail space, and about another 12,000 square feet for storage, so it’s much, much smaller than those other locations.

“Holt Renfrew’s business model now is to devote quite a bit of space to leased shops that are within their stores. In order to give those brands that amount of square footage, you need a big store to do it.”

Patterson, who is also the director of research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing, said that in 2013, he heard about plans to have Holt Renfrew and Target anchor City Centre Mall. He said he was also told there were discussions about possibly relocating Holt Renfrew to West Edmonton Mall. Neither plan ever panned out.

“Losing that grouping and clustering of wealthy shoppers will harm downtown Edmonton, at least certainly from a high-end standpoint,” he said. “Downtown Edmonton didn’t have a lot of super high-end retail to begin with, but this is almost like a nail in the coffin.”

READ MORE: Holt Renfrew to expand downtown Vancouver location

Operations at the Holt Renfrew Edmonton location will continue throughout the year until the closing date of Jan. 11, 2020.

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News of the closure comes a week after 102 Avenue was shut down for four weeks to make way for Valley Line LRT construction. It’s the first of a series of rolling closures that will take place at intersections along 102 Avenue, TransEd said.

Holt Renfrew said Edmonton employees may look for new opportunities at other Holt Renfrew locations or will receive severance packages and career planning support.

“We wish to thank our dedicated team in Edmonton and will continue to serve our valued customers until the store closure and always through our enhanced experience as well as our other stores across the country,” Zeidel said.

Holt Renfrew says its $400-million plan to renovate and expand stores across Canada includes the following:

  • A nearly complete renovation and expansion in Vancouver
  • Significant renovations and expansions in Toronto (50 Bloor Street West and Yorkdale locations)
  • The opening of a 250,000-square-foot Holt Renfrew Ogilvy in Montreal, slated to be complete in 2020
  • A beefed-up online presence

Holt Renfrew was founded in 1837 as a hat shop in Quebec, and even became an official fur and hat supplier to Queen Victoria.

READ MORE: Holt Renfrew big part of Quebec City history

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