Category Archives: Shopping Hubs

Links of London lands in Toronto

Trendy jewellery chain Links of London is opening its first Canadian standalone boutique this week in the Toronto Eaton Centre.

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The British jeweler, which is owned by global fashion powerhouse Folli Follie Group, has more than 100 retail locations around the world. In the Canadian market, it operates a handful of kiosks inside Holt Renfrew stores, as well as one that recently opened in Montreal’s downtown luxury department store Ogilvy.

Although Links of London started out specializing in cufflinks in 1990, it now offers jewellery of all kinds – including watches – and is perhaps best known for its collection of so-called ‘Sweetie’ charm bracelets.

Sweetie Bracelet

Sweetie Charm Bracelet, $295.

Links of London has also become affiliated with Britain’s world-famous Wimbledon tennis tournament, offering a collection of playful and sporty jewellery dedicated to the annual event.

The new store, located next to Michael Kors on the third floor of the Toronto Eaton Centre, opens on June 16th.

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A second standalone Canadian Links of London store is set to open soon at Sherway Gardens. Although the jeweller has already been operating a kiosk in Sherway’s Holt Renfrew location, that store is preparing to shut its doors to make way for a new, larger Holt Renfrew location at Square One Shopping Centre.

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Filed under Boutiques, Fashion, Shopping Hubs

Olympic Spirit: In Stores Now

The Olympic Games tend to permeate all aspects of society each time they occur, dominating workplace conversations, media coverage and television airtime for two weeks straight.

This time around, the games also gained a prominent presence in stores and malls, as the retail industry showed its support for the games, and Canada’s athletes in particular.

Whereas we’ve long seen retailers such as Roots and Hudson’s Bay Company embrace the games by providing Team Canada merchandise – including those red mittens that became ubiquitous during the 2010 Vancouver Games – a variety of other retailers got in on the action this year.

Companies such as Sport Chek and Canadian Tire, for example, launched aggressive marketing campaigns demonstrating their support for Team Canada, with floor-to-ceiling advertisements at certain TTC subway stations.

Shopping centres also seemed to get into the Olympic spirit more than ever before. The Toronto Eaton Centre, for example, set up a viewing lounge where people could take a break from shopping to catch up on the latest Olympic action.

Olympic Viewing Lounge at the Toronto Eaton Centre

Olympic Viewing Lounge at the Toronto Eaton Centre

On Family Day, the Eaton Centre showcased the viewing lounge during a special event featuring Jason Burnett, an Olympic silver medalist in trampoline, who took photos with fans and signed autographs. Burnett also made an appearance at Fairview Mall during the long weekend, which had a similar viewing lounge set up for shoppers to enjoy.

It’s a smart strategy from a business perspective, enticing consumers to stick around at the mall longer than they might otherwise in order to see Olympic events they don’t want to miss. The more time shoppers spend at the mall, the more likely they are to make more purchases – even if it’s just a latte to sip on while watching some figure skating or bobsledding.

Support for Team Canada on display at the Toronto Eaton Centre

Support for Team Canada on display at the Toronto Eaton Centre

The Winter Olympics clearly resonate with Canadians, providing an exciting event to rally around during the cold and dark winter months. The games also elicit a strong sense of pride among Canadians, so it’s understandable that retailers would want to find a way of associating themselves with this event.

Although retailers have their business reasons for getting involved, it’s nice to see the industry showing its support. I’m sure the athletes appreciate all the support they can get, and from a fan’s perspective, it’s one more element contributing to the exciting spirit of the games.

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Filed under Events, Shopping Hubs

Shopping around the clock

Busy GTA shoppers now have more time to get their retail fix.

Several Toronto-area shopping centres have recently extended their hours of operation, particularly on weekends, allowing shoppers to keep browsing and buying from their favourite stores well into the evenings.

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Sherway Gardens and Fairview Mall recently announced that they are now open from 9:30 am to 9 pm on Saturdays, and the Toronto Eaton Centre is open from 9:30 am to 9:30 pm.

And on Sundays – a day when laws used to prohibit retailers from opening at all – the Eaton Centre is now open a full nine hours, from 10 am to 7 pm, while Fairview and Sherway are open from 11 am to 7 pm and 11 am to 6 pm, respectively.

I can still recall when most stores were open a standard five hours on Sundays – noon to 5 pm.

These malls, all owned by The Cadillac Fairview Corp. Ltd., are likely changing their hours in an effort to compete with the growing popularity of e-commerce. Since customers can now do much of their shopping from the comfort of their home or office – anytime that’s convenient for them – they’ve become accustomed to service that caters to their schedule, and not the other way around.

In order to remain relevant in this rapidly changing environment, bricks and mortar retailers must take steps to meet customers’ rapidly evolving expectations, such as staying open longer.

As a former retail worker, however, I feel for the sales associates, store managers and other staff members who are required to work these new hours.

Although some may appreciate the bigger paycheques that come with extra hours on the clock, the job is one that can already be very tiring, involving seemingly endless hours on your feet. Tacking a couple extra hours onto the end of a shift may not seem like a big deal, but after several hours in heels, the minutes tend to crawl by at a snail’s pace.

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And, even though 9 pm may seem like a reasonable time for a store to close its doors, few retail staff members get to leave at that time. Cleaning the store, counting the till and getting things ready for the next day can easily take an hour, and on evenings when new merchandise needs to go out on the floor, workers can be stuck at a store until the early hours of the morning.

After a long week of work, that’s hardly an ideal way to spend a Saturday night.

Since it’s standard for retailers to temporarily extend their hours during the busy Christmas season, it’s possible that these workers could face even longer hours come November and December.

After that, it will be interesting to see whether these retail hubs stick with their new extended hours of operation, or revert to their old ones. If the hours pay off in the form of more sales, shop keepers will likely need to get used to their new schedules.

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Filed under Retail & the Web, Shopping Hubs

Fast fashion meets home décor

Canadians may know Zara best for its clothing, but the retail chain is showing off another one of its specialties: home furnishings.

Zara Home, a sister chain to the international fast-fashion retailer owned by Spain’s Inditex Group, has opened its first GTA store at Yorkdale Shopping Centre.Zara Home Bedding

The store carries such home décor items as rugs, throws, lighting, drapes and bedding, in bright colours, unique textures and trendy patterns designed to spruce up any space.

Similar to the brand’s clothing line, the home furnishing collections include a combination of neutral basics, such as white wooden picture frames and simple glass stemware, and bold statement pieces, along the lines of red patent leather throw cushions, mirrors embellished with third-dimensional silver snakes and skull-shaped candle holders.

Zara Home TableclothAnd, as Zara shoppers would expect, the prices are very reasonable.

Given how eagerly Canadian shoppers embraced the arrival of Zara several years ago, I suspect Zara Home will have no trouble attracting consumers in this country.

With residential construction showing few signs of slowing in Toronto, in particular, the home furnishing market is poised to continue benefitting from plenty of local demand. So, Zara picked a good city for the brand’s new home.

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Timothy Oulton brings British flare to King Street

A trendy new kid has arrived on Toronto’s home furnishing block.

British furniture brand Timothy Oulton recently launched its first three Canadian locations, including one in Toronto’s King Street East Design District. The other galleries are located in Victoria and Montreal.

The brand specializes in vintage-style handcrafted furniture with distinct British flare, such as curtains and cushions adorned with the Union Jack, historical-looking trunks, and classic chesterfields constructed with gently distressed leathers.

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Timothy Oulton’s “Beat Generation” room concept

Every item the company sells is handmade, and many incorporate old, repurposed materials. “Pieces are designed to celebrate the history of the materials,” the company explains, “and to give them a second life.”

This philosophy is certainly reflected in many of the items in Timothy Oulton’s collections. Encompassing rich colours and whimsical details, the furnishings are visually striking and full of character, but also practical.

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Timothy Oulton’s “Metro” room concept

The brand is named after its founder and creative director, who also runs the furniture company that owns the brand, Halo Group, alongside his brother Charlie. The pair learned about the furniture business from their father, Major Philip Oulton, who founded the company in 1976, when it was known as Halo Antiques.

Timothy Oulton's Loft Living Room Concept

Timothy Oulton’s “Loft Living Room” concept

Timothy Oulton’s expansion into Canada comes as the brand has expanded aggressively into international markets in recent years. In the past year, it has opened galleries in Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore, among other global cities.

The brand now has 35 locations around the world.

The Toronto gallery is located at UpCountry – a large showroom that carries the collections from various designers, at 310 King Street East, near Parliament. The new Timothy Oulton space features various furniture collections spanning 2,700 square feet of space.

Even if you’re not in the market for a new table or ottoman, Timothy Oulton – and, for that matter, many stores in Toronto’s Design District – are worth visiting for simply a glimpse of the artistic creations and comprehensive decorative displays that are showcased within.

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Filed under Boutiques, Shopping Hubs

Bringing bargains closer to home

Outlet shoppers and bargain hunters, brace yourselves: you’ll soon be able to stay far closer to home when shopping your favourite brands.

In a few short months, a shiny new outlet mall will welcome to the GTA a variety of brands that have never before brought their outlet stores to Canada.

Toronto Premium Outlets is slated to open on Aug. 1st in Halton Hills, near Trafalgar Road and the 401.

An artistic rendering of the Toronto Premium Outlets.

An artistic rendering of the Toronto Premium Outlets.

Developed by Simon Property Group and Calloway Real Estate Investment Trust, the new retail hub represents the first Premium Outlet Center to open in Canada.

The upscale outlet mall concept has done well in U.S. markets and abroad, as Simon has continued to expand its roster of more than 300 malls.

Altogether, the mall will boast 85 upscale outlets, with at least eight representing outlet brands that are new to Canada. These include:

  • Cole Haan
  • Columbia Sportswear
  • DKNY
  • Icebreaker
  • Kate Spade New York
  • Polo Ralph Lauren
  • Restoration Hardware
  • Ted Baker London

With easier access to these and other brands, many Toronto-area shoppers may be taking fewer trips to the U.S. once the new shopping hub opens its doors. As a result, outlet malls south of the border may begin to see fewer Canadian shoppers browsing their offerings.

In particular, Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls – a popular destination among Canadians given its close proximity to the border – could see its traffic decline given that many of its retailers will now have Canadian locations.

Whether the merchandise offerings and prices are on par with the U.S. stores, however, remains to be seen.

Some of Toronto Premium Outlets’ other retailers include:

  • Banana Republic
  • Bench
  • Bose
  • Brooks Brothers
  • Coach
  • Dynamite
  • Eddie Bauer
  • Gap Outlet
  • Garage
  • Guess
  • J. Crew
  • Lucky Brand Jeans
  • Michael Kors
  • True Religion
  • Zumiez

In addition, the shopping centre will be anchored by the first ever Hudson’s Bay Outlet – something I’m personally curious to check out. Since The Bay has spent the past few years continuously improving the quality of merchandise it carries, an HBC outlet could be a good place to scoop up some high-end brands at affordable prices.

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Filed under Department Stores & Big Boxes, Sales & Deals, Shopping Hubs

Fashionable finds at Dufferin Mall. Really.

Dufferin Mall is rebranding itself as a fashion destination, and as part of a unique marketing effort to promote its new identity, it sent models onto the streets of Liberty Village this week to get Toronotonians talking about the shopping destination.

The mall is taking steps to distance itself from the reputation it’s had in the past. With discount retailers Wal-Mart and No Frills as the mall’s primary anchors, it has tended to be viewed as a lower-end mall.

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However, the shopping centre has recently invested in upgrading its look, and has attracted a variety of popular fashion retailers along the way. They include: H&M, Le Chateau, Costa Blanca, Aldo, Spring, and Aeropostale, among others.

To promote these and other retailers, this week the mall launched a campaign called ReallyRunway, which effectively turned the streets of Liberty Village into one giant runway.

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Models, dressed head to toe in the latest spring trends from various Dufferin Mall retailers, were sent out onto the streets to showcase the fashions. Each carrying huge bouquets of helium-filled green and black balloons, the models were easy to spot and thus, drew plenty of attention.

The campaign also featured a media kick-off party at trendy Liberty Village lounge Locus 144, where bloggers and fashion media were able to get a closer look at the models’ trendy outfits. They featured such current trends as bright coloured pants, 1960s mod-style fashions and black and white patterns.

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It’s no easy feat for any business – especially a shopping centre – to shed one image and adopt an entirely new one. Once consumers have formed an impression, it tends to stick.

But with its bold marketing campaign, Dufferin Mall seems to be doing a good job of getting people talking. And if it’s successful, it’ll prompt shoppers to give the mall another chance.

I’ve only been to Dufferin Mall a handful of times, but the last time I stopped by, I did notice quite a drastic difference in the mall’s look and feel, and the quality of retailers. I’m sure other shoppers who give the mall a second chance will be similarly impressed.

As another ploy to get shoppers engaged, Dufferin Mall also recently introduced free Wi-Fi access throughout the entire mall – a convenient perk for tech-savvy shoppers.

And, the shopping centre has launched an iPhone app that features a full store directory, contact information and contests, and keeps shoppers informed on current store promotions.

With its new focus, new feel and new services, it’s a new chapter for Dufferin Mall.

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Filed under Events, Fashion, Shopping Hubs