Category Archives: Store Closures

The final chapter for a big retail landmark

In an era where a growing number of consumers get their news online and read books on handheld devices, it should be no surprise that books and other paper products are not generating strong sales.

Still, it somehow seems unexpected when a bookstore as notorious as the World’s Biggest Bookstore – a Toronto landmark that’s been around for more than three decades – closes its doors.

BiggestBookstore

Photo courtesy of World’s Biggest Bookstore Facebook Page.

By now, most Torontonians are likely accustomed to seeing ‘Going out of Business Sale’ signs in the windows of neighbourhood bookstores. Back in January, for instance, we learned that Book City’s flagship store in the Annex was shutting down after almost 40 years.

It’s pretty clear what’s driving this trend. As bookstores compete with online retailers like Amazon.com, along with a growing array of tablets and e-readers that enable us to consume books in a compact, portable, paperless fashion, people are simply not going to stores to buy books nearly as often as they did in the past.

Meanwhile, many of the bookstores that are still around are rapidly diversifying their product shelves to give shoppers other reasons to come into their stores, as books do not have the draw they once did.

Shoppers who have visited a Indigo store in the past year or two, for example, could be forgiven for mistaking it for a home décor retailer, given the growing selection of candles, throws and vases in those stores. That strategy appears to be paying off: the company has seen double-digit growth in sales of lifestyle products, toys and other non-book items in recent quarters.

In the case of the World’s Biggest Bookstore, it had certainly seen better days. Last time I stopped by, the store looked dated and run down – especially compared to Indigo’s other stores. In that sense, its looming closure is not too surprising.

world-biggest-bookstore

Still, the closure of this store seems somehow symbolic, reflecting the end of an era in the world of books. The store was more than a bookshop – it was a landmark. Given our rapidly changing world, however, maybe this landmark was simply no longer a relevant one.

The future of the book retailing business does not look particularly promising. But, for now, Toronto shoppers still have various destinations to buy books – even once the city’s biggest book hub has officially closed shop.

The doors will close for the last time tomorrow, on March 30th. So get your final fix before it’s too late.

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An unexpected exit for French Connection

French Connection appears to have vacated the premises of its Bloor Street store.

Upon passing the central Yonge and Bloor location last week, I noticed signs plastered on the windows of the boutique announcing its closure. And already, the merchandise seems to have been cleared from the store’s floors.French Connection Bloor

The international fashion retailer has three other locations in Toronto, including Yorkdale Shopping Centre, Queen Street West, and the Toronto Eaton Centre, along with a few locations in the surrounding suburbs, so shoppers still have options for getting their French Connection fix.

But I was surprised to see the brand vacate a location in such a central and sought-after part of the city, well known for high-end fashion retailers.

The Bloor Street store was large, with two storeys of merchandise, and from what I could tell, it was usually busy with shoppers.

With rental rates in that neighbourhood more expensive than any other retail strip in Canada, however, perhaps the cost of operating the location became too much for the retailer.

I’m curious to see what will pop up in this coveted location next.

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Jacob abandons another brand

Another Jacob brand is quietly disappearing from the retail landscape.

The women’s clothing chain is phasing out its Jacob Lingerie line of undergarments and sleepwear.

A clearance sale at Jacob Lingerie’s Manulife Centre location in Toronto.

Some Jacob Lingerie stores have already closed their doors, and the ones left have been in clearance mode for several weeks, with bras marked down to $6.99 and nightgowns priced at $12.99. There’s also a limited range of lingerie items left in the online store, and they’re similarly marked down to clearance prices.

The move comes a year and a half after Jacob Connexion, the company’s casual clothing chain, disappeared from its roster of stores (Just one JACOB).

Jacob is apparently phasing out these secondary brands as it places a greater emphasis on its new collection of ‘L’Atelier’ evening dresses, which sell at a higher price point than the rest of the retailer’s merchandise. Cocktail dresses, for instance, are priced at $179 and floor-length gowns cost $199.

The lingerie clearance means it’s a good time to stock up on what’s left of the company’s intimates – but remember that sales are final.

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End of an era for Esprit

Toronto’s about to lose a major international clothing retailer. Esprit, the global fashion chain with more than 800 stores around the world, has announced that it plans to close all of its North American stores due to dwindling profits in Canada and the U.S.

Esprit operates 90 directly managed stores in North America. Toronto locations include a store at the Eaton Centre, one at Yorkdale Shopping Centre and one at Sherway Gardens, along with various other locations on the outskirts of the city. Most of them will close in the next week or two.

At a time when many international retail chains are flourishing in Canada, it seems unusual for one of these major chains to be checking out of this country’s retail business entirely.

But clearly, the company hasn’t done a very good job of keeping Canadian shoppers coming back. Same-store sales were down by 7.7% at Canadian Esprit stores in the year ending June 30, 2011. And last week, the company said its profits in the first half of the year were down 74% from last year.

Esprit has been operating in Canada and the U.S. for many years, and I can recall a time when the stores were very popular shopping destinations, especially among teenaged girls. They carried trendy fashions and the aisles of the stores would be bustling with shoppers.

During visits to the mall in the past couple years, however, I’ve noticed far fewer shoppers frequenting Esprit stores.

It’s not too often I find fashions that I personally like at Esprit. And when an item at Esprit does catch my eye, it’s often too pricey for what I consider it to be worth.

In a world where fast-fashion retailers seem to thrive (think H&M, where it’s not uncommon to find trendy tops priced at less than $10), it’s tough for other fashion retailers to stay competitive, unless quality or label status sets them apart.

My guess is, this type of competition proved to be too much for Esprit – at least in North America. The brand seems to be holding up well in Europe and Asia, so Canadian shoppers will still be have access to the brand on travels abroad.

In the meantime, if you’re an Esprit fan, now would be the time to stock up on this company’s clothing. There are currently huge sales at the company’s Canadian stores – to the tune of 70% off all merchandise – as it aims to clear out its remaining merchandise.

But don’t expect any kind of orderly shopping experience. The Esprit location that I recently visited didn’t even have clothes on hangers – what was left of the picked-over merchandise was overflowing out of boxes on tables and on the ground. Some boxes appeared to be labelled – “Men’s Shirts” or “Women’s Size Large”, for example – but most were a messy mishmash of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, along with lingerie. So, bargain hunters, be prepared to truly have to hunt for an Esprit bargain.

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Filed under Clothing Lines, Fashion, Sales & Deals, Store Closures

StyleSense shoe stores shut their doors

StyleSense has sold its last pair of shoes.

All three StyleSense stores in the GTA, owned by The TJX Companies, Inc. – the same company that operates Winners, Home Sense and Marshalls – have been shut down.

The stores, located at Vaughan Mills, Oakville Place and Heartland Town Centre in Mississauga, had only been open for about three years. Large and spacious, they carried a huge – and I mean HUGE – selection of brand name shoes and boots, along with bags, hats, scarves and other accessories, at marked down prices.

The stores seemed to be busy whenever I stopped in, so I was suprised to hear this week that the company had decided to close all three locations.

TJX brought its Marshall chain to Canada for the first time last year (More discount fashion for the GTA), and I gather that the closure of StyleSense is part of the company’s effort to focus on beefing up this new brand in Canada. Like Winners, Marshalls stores carry mainly clothing, but they also have a hefty selection of shoes.

Still, the shoe selection in the Marshalls locations that I’ve seen have been disappointingly small, and way less organized than the impressive stock at StyleSense. I’ve found some amazing deals on shoes at StyleSense in the past couple years, and I’m sad to see the stores disappear.

But perhaps I should give Marshalls another chance. It looks like the chain is here to stay, as it’s actively growing its footprint on this side of the border. The chain now has six store in the GTA, and six more Ontario stores are slated to open at the end of March. The new locations in the GTA will  include:

  • Upper James St. in Hamilton
  • Burlington Power Centre in Burlington
  • Taunton and Harmony in Oshawa

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Minimalist style, straight from Montreal

Montreal-based leather design house m0851 has carved out a bigger and better presence in Toronto’s retail scene.

The company, known for its high-end men’s and women’s leather outerwear, bags and accessories, has recently opened two new Toronto boutiques: one on Avenue Road in Yorkville, and one in Bayview Village.

The Yorkville store, which opened just before Christmas, replaces a boutique that the company previously operated just a few blocks away, on St. Thomas Street just south of Bloor.

With a minimalist and casual style, m0851 pieces are generally versatile and functional – practical, but fashionable. The design team behind the collection aims for quality and durability in the materials and construction of the items.

The entire collection is produced in Montreal – a refreshing detail in a world where most of the items we buy seem to be manufactured in countries with questionable labour practices.

Similar to the company’s collections, its boutiques are modern, clean and simplistic.

It has four stores in the Montreal area, along with one in Vancouver and a new one in Calgary. Outside of Canada it operates stores in New York, Paris, Belgium and Taiwan.

The chain is certainly growing, and as it does, more Toronto locations could emerge. Keep an eye out for a potential new street-front store on either Queen Street West, King Street West, or in the Yonge-Eglinton area in the year ahead.

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Sterling steps out of Toronto’s retail scene

Toronto shoppers will have fewer places to look for cheap-chic shoes in the months ahead, as Sterling Shoes exits the city’s retail scene.

Struggling footwear company Sterling Shoes LP, which owns five chains: Sterling Shoes, Shoe Warehouse, Joneve, Gia, and Freedman, has announced that it’s closing 53 stores across the country.

The Vancouver-based retailer has been operating under court protection from creditors since October. Like many retailers, it was hit by declining sales during the economic downturn, which came at a particularly vulnerable time for Sterling, as it had expanded aggressively in the three years leading up to the recession.

The Sterling Shoes chain, which has the biggest presence in the GTA of all the banners, is exiting Ontario entirely. It’s closing half of its 55 stores, leaving it with 28 once the restructuring is complete.

That means all of Sterling’s GTA locations will close. This includes locations in:

  • Toronto Eaton Centre
  • Richmond Adelaide Centre
  • Dufferin Mall
  • Scarborough Town Centre
  • Oshawa Centre
  • Square One Shopping Centre, Mississauga
  • Erin Mills Town Centre, Mississauga
  • Markville Shopping Centre, Markham
  • Lime Ridge Mall, Hamilton
  • Upper Canada Mall, Newmarket
  • Promenade Mall, Thornhill
  • Hillcrest Mall, Richmond Hill
  • Bramalea City Centre, Brampton

Most of the remaining Sterling Shoes stores are in Alberta and B.C., along with a couple in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Meanwhile, the company’s Joneve and Gia chains are being shut down entirely, while its Freedman and Shoe Warehouse banners are only shrinking slightly.

These four banners have less of a presence in the GTA. The ones closing include:

  • Sherway Gardens (Joneve)
  • Bramalea City Centre (Joneve)
  • Hillcrest Mall (Freedman)
  • Oakville Place (Freedman)

Freedman will no longer have any GTA stores, but all of Shoe Warehouse’s Ontario locations will continue to operate as usual. The company will have a total of 105 stores once the restructuring is complete.

Of all the banners, I’m most familiar with Sterling – a destination for trendy, affordable shoes where I’ve stumbled upon a good find once or twice. It’s too bad the stores are closing, but I can’t say I’m too surprised.

It’s a crowded market, with chains like Aldo, Spring, Stepss and The Shoe Company competing for the same shoppers. So, it’s important for retailers to stand out in order to survive – and perhaps Sterling didn’t shine as bright as it should have.

What’s the silver (or, ahem, sterling)  lining? As the stores begin to wind down their operations, shoppers will have a chance to score some pretty great deals on shoes, to the tune of up to 50% off all merchandise. Keep in mind, though, that anything you buy is final sale.

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Filed under Fashion, Store Closures