Tuesday, 24 September 2013

News: Sears Canada CEO Calvin McDonald Resigns

Calvin McDonald leaves as retailer continues to attempt revival.

Calvin McDonald
In a surprising new development, Sears Canada has announced that its CEO Calvin McDonald is leaving the company. McDonald, a former executive at Loblaw, spent two years at Sears working to revive the ailing retailer by focusing on the so-called “hero” categories of appliances and apparel. Under his watch the retailer sold leases to several high profile stores (paving the way for Nordstrom’s entry into Canada).

Sears has been struggling as it loses market shares to a host of rivals and is being squeezed in the middle of the market. At the lower end it has encountered intense competition from discounters Walmart and Target (which has been rolling out stores across Canada), and at the higher end to a newly resurgent Hudson’s Bay.

McDonald is being replaced by former Sears COO Douglas C. Campbell, who first joined Sears in March 2011. He is a former principal with Boston Consulting Group and has experience in many sectors including retail, manufacturing, and pharmaceuticals.

"I am excited about the opportunity to lead a company with such a great brand and history, and to continue to improve the performance of Sears," commented Campbell.  "I am eager to move us forward, to work closely with our management team and to continue to engage our customers and our 25,000 associates to better serve families and communities across Canada."

The Globe and Mail is reporting that McDonald’s departure is tied to a disagreement with Edward Lambert, the chief shareholder of the US parent company Sears Holdings Corp. over the pace of change. McDonald is leaving for a position with an undisclosed international company.

Preview: Metro Coming to Queen Street West

The Carnaby condo development to bring grocery giant to Queen West.

The Carnaby condos and Metro
Inspired by the west end arty London street of the same name, The Carnaby is the newest condo project in the Queen West area by Streetcar developments. The development is bounded by the triangle formed by Queen Street West, Gladstone Avenue, and Peel Avenue and includes condos, an urban park, and ground floor retail shops.

A 25,000 square foot Metro grocery store will open on on Queen Street West and will include a pharmacy and wine shop.The store should find plenty of customers from new condo projects on Gladstone Avenue, the Bohemian Embassy development on Queen Street West, and the Q Condos at Dufferin Street.

Area site plan
Grocery retailers, facing new competition from Target and Walmart's Supercentres, are increasingly looking for ways to engage urban consumers. The recent acquisition of Shoppers Drug Mart by Loblaw was seen by many as a way for the grocer to gain key small format stores in which to expand its reach. Partnering with condo developers is another way to reach an under serviced consumer.

[Renderings via Streetcar Developments]

Monday, 23 September 2013

News: HBC Names New Saks Fifth Avenue President

Last week Hudson's Bay Company announced a new leader to head Saks Fifth Avenue.

New Saks Fifth Avenue President Marigay McKee
As HBC finalizes its acquisition of Saks Fifth Avenue, CEO Richard Baker named former chief merchant at Harrods Marigay McKee to the position of president. McKee is a 14 year veteran of Harrods and was credited with revitalizing the venerable department store's fashion assortment and growing their beauty business. She is also a member of the board of the British Fashion Council.

"Marigay McKee's experience as an effective world-class leader in the international luxury retail space is well-aligned with our vision for the Saks Fifth Avenue brand," said Richard Baker, Governor and CEO of Hudson's Bay Company. "She has a proven track record of success at the highest level of luxury and I'm very excited for her to head up our Saks business at HBC."

McKee's appointment takes effect once the acquisition is officially closed later this year.

"I am delighted to join Hudson's Bay Company to head up Saks Fifth Avenue and work with their dedicated team," said McKee. "Saks Fifth Avenue is one of the world's preeminent luxury retailers with a rich history and tradition of exceptional customer service." McKee added, "Saks presents a great opportunity as a world class brand with new frontiers for development. I'm excited for this unique challenge as we embark on this new chapter at the company."

Along with McKee's hire, Baker announced a corporate reshuffle. A new Office of the Chairman will be created consisting of Baker and COO Donald Watros. Senior HBC executives will report directly to the new Office of the Chairman. There will be four defined retail business units: the HBC Department Store Group (which consists of Hudson's Bay and Lord and Taylor), Saks Fifth Avenue, Outlets, and Home Outfitters.

"Our goals for this new structure are to maintain the unique identity of each retail brand, to build an effective and cost-efficient platform of shared services, and to position the Company for growth and expansion." Said Baker about the corporate changes.

In a related note WWD has reported that Saks is gearing up to roll-out more of their Off 5th outlet stores, including locations in Canada. Baker has said he envisions up to 7 full line Saks Fifth Avenue stores and 25 Off 5th outlets in Canada, as well as a dedicated Canadian Saks e-commerce site.

[Image via WWD]

Thursday, 19 September 2013

News: Jamie Oliver for Sobeys - "Better food for all."

Celebrity chef debuts new campaign for grocery chain.

This summer Canadian grocery chain Sobeys announced that it was partnering with Jamie Oliver as part of a "better food" campaign for the retailer. Over the past few years Oliver has campaigned for better food in schools and has become an advocate for food education.

"It's a real honour to be working with Sobeys, a fantastic organization that has been bringing fresh food to Canadians for 106 years now," said Oliver. "I've always received an extremely warm welcome from Canadians, and I'm thrilled to be joining the Sobeys' team."

Sobeys has said Canadians have increasingly become health conscious, with 73% wanting to eat better. As part of his role with Sobeys, Oliver will work to increase food education and cooking skills of Canadians. Sobeys will be reorienting its product assortment to focus on these aims.

The campaign launches a new brand positioning for Sobeys, "Better Food For All," built around four pillars:

1. Enjoying Fresh and Tasty Food
2. Shopping for Healthy and Wholesome Products
3. Choosing Sustainable Products
4. Saving Time

Over the coming months Sobeys will launch new products, incorporate food ideas into its weekly flyer, and roll out an integrated marketing campaign with Oliver.

A new series of television ads recently debuted and can be viewed on Sobey's YouTube page or on their website.

[Click here for the official announcement and press release]

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

News: RioCan Appealing Bylaw Freezing Proposed Bathurst Walmart

What's next for proposed Kensington Market Walmart site?

The Kromer Radio site on Bathurst Street
Big-Box developer RioCan had proposed a three-storey retail complex (with Walmart as the anchor tenant) on the former Kromer Radio site at 401-446 Bathurst Street. Kromer Radio closed in 2012 after 55 years in business leaving a prime patch of real estate close to both Kensington Market and Little Italy.

The proposed complex would house up to 10 retailers with small format shops on the ground level, and Walmart occupying the second and third floors. The site which is currently zoned as Mixed Use Commercial Retail allows it to be used for retail use. RioCan has stated that its proposed development is near but not in Kengsinton Market and would offer a different mix of retailers than is currently found in the area.
RioCan's proposed retail complex

Rendering of proposed development at 401-446 Bathurst Street
"We believe our proposal to build a three-storey urban-format retail centre will be a significant improvement to the current site. At the same time, we remain considerate and respectful of the needs of local communities." Said RioCan via a website they launched asking for public input. RioCan's urban properties include the RioCan Shoppes at Queen and Portland (which houses Winners and Loblaws) and the Stockyards currently under construction on St. Clair Avenue.

Not surprisingly the proposal has stirred local residents who fear the impact a large retailer would have on a neighbourhood defined mostly by small stores and independent retailers. Friends of Kensington Market have set up an online petition aiming to stop RioCan's development plans.

Location of proposed development
 "Riocan’s application for re-zoning is part of a disturbing trend in our city," Says the online petition page. "If the communities around Bathurst and College win this fight against Riocan we will have set a precedent that could empower other neighbourhoods in Toronto to face down developers in the future. It's a battle we can't afford to lose." The group also has an online petition against a proposed Loblaws on College Street (in far closer proximity to Kensington Market than the Kromer Radio site) which hasn't garnered the same level of support.

Local City Councillor Adam Vaughan has been a vocal opponent of the project and in July City Council passed a bylaw which blocks big-box retail in the area for a year as the city completes further study. RioCan has now appealed that decision to the Ontario Municipal Board. The OMB is an often controversial unelected body to whom planning and development decisions can be appealed.

[Renderings via RioCan]

Monday, 16 September 2013

Preview: Hudson's Bay Sherway Gardens Renovation

Major Renovation Nearing Completion

Mall entrance featuring new Hudson's Bay signage

The Hudson's Bay Sherway Gardens location has been undergoing significant renovations as part of a broader mall renovation and expansion. In the coming years Sherway Gardens will grow significantly, adding new retailers, restaurants, a parking garage, as well as a new Nordstrom store opening in 2016.

The new women's accessories department

Hudson's Bay is incorporating many of the design elements also being used at their Yorkdale and Queen Street locations which are also under renovation. Ceilings are being raised with bright new lights installed; floors are glossy and smooth; and the finishes are high end and modern.

Fragrance department
New cosmetics counters are currently being installed and the fragrance department has undergone a complete rethink. Locked glass showcases have been replaced with open sell units and freestanding display stands.

Topshop and Topman opening this fall

As part of a continued roll-out of the Topshop/Topman brands a dedicated shop-in-shop will open this fall with direct access via the mall.

Men's denim brands on the main level
Main level

Selected menswear is moving to the main level, joining women's shoes, accessories, and cosmetics. The second level now features women's fashions, but is still largely unrenovated.

New bed and bath shop on the lower level
All home accessories have been relocated to the lower level where you will also find men's suiting, accessories, and a newly expanded men's shoe department.

Gift Registry and china department
An official opening for the main level is scheduled for later this fall, and mall renovations will continue through to 2016.

In a related note, Sherway Gardens has officially announced an extension to store hours. Beginning September 28th, the mall will extend its Saturday closing to 9 p.m.

Friday, 13 September 2013

News: Revitalized Union Station to Include New Retail

Station overhaul to restore historic elements while modernizing transit hub for future growth.

Front Street Elevation
For the past two years the area around Union Station has been in a state of flux, with Front Street torn up and traffic diversions the norm. But in another two year's the city's busiest main railway station will be completely modernized.

Announced as part of Metrolinx's Big Move plan, Union Station is undergoing a dramatic revitalization that includes the overhaul of station concourses and railway platforms. Most dramatically a new glass atrium train shed is being constructed over the railway tracks and platforms. Starting in 2015 there will also be a new express train service to Pearson Airport.

Beneath the GO train level a new retail concourse is being constructed, linked to the adjoining TTC subway station (which is also undergoing significant renovations and gaining a new platform) and PATH. From this same level new escalators will connect with the GO concourse.

Union Station Retail Concourse Rendering

Union Station Retail Concourse Rendering
Many high profile railway stations in Europe incorporate significant retail elements. London's St. Pancras has an expansive retail level with well known brands such as Marks & Spencer and The Body Shop. New York's Grand Central Terminal has 68 shops and an eclectic mix of food purveyors.

As the station's previous retail offerings extended to a newstand and chocolate shop, it will be interesting to see what retailers the station will secure for this new space. New retailers are certain to have access to a high degree of foot traffic. Union Station, which first opened in 1927 and is a National Historic Site, sees 200,000 commuters every day and is the busiest transit hub in Canada.

The City of Toronto, which owns Union Station is now advertising retail leasing opportunities on its website.

[Images via the City of Toronto]

Thursday, 12 September 2013

News: Sears Launches 2013 Wish Book with iPad Edition

It may be the last gasps of summer in Toronto, but Sears is ready for the holidays.

The Sears 2013 Wish Book Catalogue
For many Canadians the Sears Wish Book is a seasonal reminder that the festive season is around the corner. The holiday annual is a part of the department store retailer’s catalogue business and trades heavily on its focus on toys and gifts.

This year Sears is introducing iPad editions to complement the release of their Wish Book as well as LOOK! (a quarterly fall fashion look book first introduced last year). Both are also available in print and online editions.

"Sears wants to engage with customers in ways that are relevant and meaningful to them," said Calvin McDonald, President and CEO, Sears Canada in a release.  "For many Canadians who have grown up in the electronic age, the Catalogues iPad app provides an easy and familiar way to see what's new and place an order at the same time. As the country's leading gift guide and fashion trend barometer for the season, the Wish Book and LOOK! report iPad apps, respectively, are the retail industry's leading publications in shopping technology and innovation."

The Wish Book iPad edition features a search engine, the ability to bookmark items, and a Wish List maker. Also available is a social media component that allows customers to share products and Wish Lists with Facebook and Twitter.

The news Wish Book can be viewed via the Sears Catalogue app (available to download from iTunes) or viewed online at sears.ca.

Though the retailer's troubles are well documented, their catalogue and online business remains one of the most extensive in the Canadian marketplace. Sears has combined their long standing catalogue business with e-commerce and has over 1,400 catalogue/online pick-up locations across the country. Annually over 3 million Canadian households receive the Sears catalogue.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

News: Roots Celebrates 40th Anniversary

It all began 40 years ago with a shoe ... a negative heel shoe that would launch Roots into becoming a Canadian fashion success story.

Friends Michael Budman and Don Green launched Roots in 1973 as a brand with a nostalgic passion for the Canadian outdoors.

"With this milestone, we want to express our gratitude for your ongoing confidence in our brand," the co-founders wrote in a thank you message published in the Globe and Mail. "You give us every reason to be excited about the future of Roots and Canada."

To commemorate the milestone, Roots is producing an exhibit at their Bloor Street flagship store, as well as reissuing the original negative heel shoe and creating a special leather jacket with fellow Canadian brand Smythe. A book entitled Roots: 40 Years of Style is also now available.

Roots recently appointed Wendy Bennison as COO and said she will help lead the brand as it continues to grow. It also opened its 100th store in Asia as well as a new location in Venice, California.

[Click here for the official press release]

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

History: Bea Arthur as Shoppers Drug Mart Spokesperson

After yesterday's post about the evolution of Shoppers Drug Mart's BeautyBoutique, Toronto Shopkeeper looks back to an earlier time at the retailer.

The 1980s saw huge growth at Shoppers Drug Mart, with annual sales reaching $1.2 billion by 1982.

In 1984 Shoppers debuted their slogan "Everything you want in a drugstore," which meant to encompass five company pillars: service, savings, selection, convenience, and trust. They hired Golden Girl Bea Arthur to front a popular series of ads.

This commercial from 1988 promotes a 500 Store Celebration Sale. The retailer now has over 1,200 locations.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Review: Toronto Shopkeeper Shops BeautyBoutique (Shoppers Drug Mart)

New brands, new store design, herald a new format BeautyBoutique.

Location: BeautyBoutique (Shoppers Drug Mart), Toronto Eaton Centre (220 Yonge St., Toronto, ON)

When I was a child, every Christmas my father and I would go down to the Eaton's fragrance department and purchase a bottle of perfume for my mother. Back then it would never have occurred to us to visit a drug store for that purchase. However, in today's much changed retail landscape, drugstores are increasingly becoming the destination for customers seeking high end fragrances and cosmetics.

Leading this retail revolution has been Shoppers Drug Mart, who launched their BeautyBoutique format over ten years ago. Now found in hundreds of locations across the country, BeautyBoutiques are dedicated cosmetics departments within selected Shoppers Drug Mart stores that feature many of the same brands once exclusive to department and specialty stores. The boutiques are partially separated from the rest of the store and feature modern fixtures, soft lighting, and self serve units.

Last year Shoppers opened the first of what it is calling an "enhanced" BeautyBoutique, at Bayview Village. This concept brings in new brands like Chanel cosmetics while providing a larger store footprint and a more refined shopping environment. A week ago a second location opened at the Toronto Eaton Centre.

"Our goal was to design a unique and inspiring experience leveraging our customer insights in beauty while also integrating emerging customer trends," said Domenic Pilla, President and CEO, Shoppers Drug Mart in a press release. "Shoppers Drug Mart has always pushed the envelope when it comes to the beauty category and as a result we have become the market leader in mass and prestige cosmetics, fragrances and skin care products and the beauty destination of choice for Canadian women."

Toronto Shopkeeper visited the Toronto Eaton Centre location to discover Shoppers Drug Mart's new experiment in beauty.

Design: Those who have visited a BeautyBoutique in the past will notice a distinct stylistic difference here. The finishes look sleeker, brands are presented on mini walls throughout the store rather than chiefly along the walls, and the lighting is more ambient and hung from staggered beams in the ceiling.

The general feel of the boutique is almost that of a Sephora store, which is not surprising considering that Sephora has been aggressively opening Canadian store locations. After initially opening in the country's top tier malls, Sephora has been spreading to secondary and regional malls. If Shoppers wants to compete in malls then this new modern format is its best weapon.

Front and centre is a cash wrap and welcome station with make-up artist brand Smashbox featured near the front window. Products are merchandised by brand with a dedicated men's wall of products. At the back of the store a fragrance corner features self service units as well as a unique testing table. Nearby is a brightly light, spa-like, "derm" area featuring brands like Vichy, Clairsonic, and La Roche-Posay.

Merchandise: It has to be acknowledged how far Shoppers has come with its merchandise assortment. Gone are the days when a high end brand wouldn't dream of selling to Shoppers, indeed many now routinely launch new products at the retailer. Where once a drugstore featured a few tired old brands behind lock and key, now shelves of top selling brands invite customers to test, touch, and buy.

Shoppers Drug Mart's now decade long evolution of its BeautyBoutique concept convinced vendors that their image was in safe hands. However, stigma did still remain and in 2008 Shoppers launched their Murale chain, a beauty only destination that managed to lure brands such as Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, and Bobbi Brown. Two Murale stores have since closed, and I wonder about the fate of the remaining six locations now that Shoppers has proved it can handle high end beauty.

Unique to this enhanced BeautyBoutique format are brands such as Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, who have comprehensive offerings here.

Service: On an early weekend morning, three associates were working in the boutique space. They moved from area to area, cross selling across brands, unlike in traditional department stores where a consultant is often responsible for one brand.

"We introduced this new concept all while holding true to our principles of knowledgeable and unbiased service in an enjoyable and convenient shopping experience," said Cathy Masson, Vice-President Category Management. Shoppers has prided itself on training its beauty consultants to be independent brand ambassadors, and to sell objectively and without bias (another Sephora signature here).

Not surprisingly a big draw for customers is the Shoppers Optimum program, which allows customers to earn and redeem on almost anything in the store. The program has over 10 million members (that's almost one in three Canadians) and now e-mails customers personalized offers.

Online: Shoppers recently launched a dedicated BeautyBoutique page which features selected product information and a brand finder. While it does not currently offer e-commerce, its Murale sister does (and also accepts the Optimum program). I can't help thinking that Shoppers could be an online powerhouse if it married its online Murale beauty platform with a site selling both its private label and mass market products. Comparable UK drug store Boots has just such a site where you can buy everything from Gucci fragrances to diapers.

Grade: 85%

Lost marks for: Lacking an e-commerce platform as it's such a wasted golden opportunity. Also while being on the mall's lower level near a subway entrance is no doubt good for traffic, I wonder if there might not have been a better location in such a large mall.

Gained marks for: Doing what it does best. Featuring great brands in an inviting store environment with good staffing.

Toronto Shopkeeper Returns

After an extended summer holiday Toronto Shopkeeper is back and promises a fall packed with news, retail history, and store reviews. The shop's open, come on in!