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Experts predict 2018 could smash records for international retailers flocking to Canada

VANCOUVER—Nearly every day, Craig Patterson could write about a new brand coming into the country as he researches L.A.-based Reformation, one of a slew of new names making its Canadian debut.

According to Patterson, founder of industry publication Retail Insider, 2017 was a record-breaking year for international retailers entering Canada with at least 50 new arrivals. Given that more than 30 brands have already entered Canada or plans to this year, 2018 could exceed that number.

“In the 80s, we’ve started seeing more brands coming into Canada … unfortunately we’ve seen these Canadian brands as a result die because some of these Canadian retailers never had to innovate,” Patterson said.

Homegrown brand Le Chateau, which Patterson said is “struggling” could be the next casualty in the new retail landscape shaped by new entrants like Uniqlo, Miniso, and Muji . “It’s a retailer from a bygone era.”

Instead, Lululemon and Aritzia are bucking the trend of Canadian brands shrinking by expanding overseas, he added.

In a recent CBRE global market report, most International retailers are choosing Toronto or Vancouver, 40 and 11 in 2017, as their first port of call in the country. “Luxury led the pack with 34 per cent of entrants, mostly from Europe, followed by coffee and restaurants and eyewear retailers, each accounting for 12 per cent.”


Toronto is gaining “appeal as a global gateway city,” stated the report. Specifically, Yorkdale Shopping Centre managed by Oxford Properties has become a “top destination” for retailers entering the Canadian market including IWC Schaffhausen, Officine Panerai, Vacheron Constantin, Van Cleef & Arpels and Breitling.

Part of their success is Oxford Properties’ proactive approach.

“They go out directly to retailers and they work with them to open stores, and there’s an incredible advantage to a mall landlord going out and saying to a brand and say, ‘We can create a space that’s 8,000 square feet for you,” explained Patterson.

“It’s really hard to do that, say on Alberni Street in Vancouver where this is a struggle for luxury looking in Vancouver, they don’t have the space.”

Retail spaces on Alberni has consistently been in high demand from international retailers in the last three to five years, said Mario Negris, vice-president of CBRE. But popularity shifts around different neighbourhoods depending on the feel the business want. In the last six months, a resurgence has been seen in the South Granville area, he added.

Not only has the onslaught of international retailers raised consumer expectations for “better, faster” fashion, Patterson said, the choices also reflect the “multicultural” population especially in Toronto and Vancouver.