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High-end retailers shift from Edmonton’s downtown core to North America’s largest mall

Click to play video 'High-end retailers shift from Edmonton’s downtown core to North America’s largest mall' High-end retailers shift from Edmonton’s downtown core to North America’s largest mall
WATCH ABOVE: A once bustling downtown in Edmonton brought in some high-end brands to the city's core. But after facing several changes over the years, stores have left, making it difficult for surrounding businesses to stick around. Chris Chacon has more.

They are big brands that often have big price tags, and they would typically be found in Edmonton’s downtown core.

“Holt Renfrew, unfortunately, closed in January, which was quite a blow to luxury retail in Edmonton,” Retail Insider analyst Craig Patterson said about the luxury department store that carries high-end brands such as Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Valentino, among others.

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

Hudson’s Bay also announced earlier this year it would be closing its city centre location in the fall. These closures are diverting high-end retailers elsewhere.

“So now what it appears is West Edmonton Mall is taking those brands that would have been in Holt Renfrew and are putting them in stand-alone stores in the shopping centre,” said Patterson, who is also the director of research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing.

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A stand-alone Louis Vuitton store opened inside West Edmonton Mall last year near where Tiffany & Co., Coach, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Lacoste and other upscale storefronts have opened in recent years.

Patterson said stand-alone Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent stores are also heading to West Edmonton Mall.

“Now what we’re seeing is a retail mix in the shopping centre, which includes some fairly substantial luxury brands that I think will be a significant draw to the shopping centre from well beyond the Edmonton area,” Patterson said.

In 2013, owner of the Green House Mikhail Prime opened a second restaurant located down the street from where Holt Renfrew used to be.

Mikhail Prime, owner of the Green House in Edmonton, in front of his now-closed downtown location.
Mikhail Prime, owner of the Green House in Edmonton, in front of his now-closed downtown location. Chris Chacon/Global News

“The dream was to be here to have a brand here. We were born here in Edmonton,” Prime said.

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His dream didn’t turn out the way he had hoped.

“Coming into downtown is not only a trek but it can be a challenge with the transit issues,” Prime said.

Add on the impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Prime decided to close his downtown location and continue operating his first restaurant at the University of Alberta, which opened in 2009.

“When Holt Renfrew, which is also a large brand, decides that it wants to leave somewhere, it tells you the ground is shifting. If they can’t survive, how can a small business survive?” Prime said.

“Despite the wonderful efforts that we have seen over the years from parties looking to revive downtown Edmonton, it is still struggling. It is not a vibrant place. There is a perception that there is a lack of safety there,” Patterson said.

Read more: Hudson’s Bay in Edmonton City Centre mall to close

As for the businesses themselves, Patterson said these high-end retailers are expected to do well, especially with people using money from skipped vacations.

For Prime, he said he would consider opening another restaurant in one of several malls around the city.

— With files from Karen Bartko, Global News

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