By Craig Patterson, Retail Insider, March 18/2018
Paris-based luxury brand Saint Laurent (formerly ‘Yves Saint Laurent’) has opened a street-level boutique on Toronto’s Bloor Street West ’Mink Mile’. The shop is technically a concession within the Holt Renfrew complex at 50 Bloor Street West, though it functions as a standalone boutique and carries the company’s entire collections for men and women.
The boutique features both a street-facing entrance onto Bloor Street, as well as access and a marble facade from within Holt Renfrew’s cosmetics department. Marble and metal are the themes throughout Saint Laurent’s new store — flooring and walls are primarily marble clad, and mirrors make the space appear even larger than it is.
Unlike the Toronto Yorkdale Shopping Centre Saint Laurent that opened in November of 2016, the Bloor Street Saint Laurent is divided into separate areas that include menswear, women’s ready-to-wear, footwear and accessories. Handbags proliferate at the front of the store facing Bloor Street along with a selection of pricey women’s fashion from the Spring/Summer 2018 collection, and men’s is further to the back.
Saint Laurent is the latest renovated area of the 50 Bloor Street West Holt Renfrew store, which is seeing piecemeal renovations to selected departments. Sources in the company say that a bigger renovation is planned with details to follow. What’s interesting, as well, is that the Saint Laurent boutique at 50 Bloor carries menswear, and that it wasn’t included in the current standalone 16,500 square foot men’s store at 100 Bloor Street West.
The new Saint Laurent boutique actually takes part of the former men’s floor at the 50 Bloor Holt Renfrew store. All of the 50 Bloor menswear was moved to the 100 Bloor Street West men’s store last year. Holt Renfrew has been making changes to its 50 Bloor Street premises and last summer, it reduced the store’s size by about 3,800 square feet when it gave up ground level space that is technically part of the adjacent 60 Bloor Street West office tower. That space remains vacant.
In some respects, Holt Renfrew is taking a page from its past by offering Saint Laurent street-level space with its own entrance. In the 1990’s, Giorgio Armani had street-facing boutiques at Holt’s in Toronto and Montreal and more recently, Chanel opened a 5,000 square foot street-level concession at Holt Renfrew in Vancouver that faces onto Dunsmuir Street — though it is only accessed from within Holt’s.
Saint Laurent has expanded its presence in Canada over the past two years, having opened two boutiques, as well as an accessory concession at Nordstrom in Vancouver. Saint Laurent opened its first standalone store in Canada in Vancouver at 746 Thurlow Street in July of 2016, spanning 4,800 square feet over two floors. A second location at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre, spanning more than 3,000 square feet on one level, opened in November of 2016.
The new Saint Laurent gives Bloor Street a luxury boost — the stretch near Holt’s is for the most part more mid-market, featuring locations for retailers such as The Gap, Aritziaand H&M. That will change towards the end of this year when an overhauled Birks jewellery store flagship will be unveiled, housing street-front entrances for pricey shop-in-stores including Van Cleef & Arpels and Breitling.
Birks is part of the Manulife Centre complex which is undergoing a podium transformation that will add new retailers, including a 50,000 square foot three-level Eataly (opening in early 2019). Canadian footwear guru Ron White’s updated flagship at Manulife Centre was unveiled on Friday, and new retailers such as Over The Rainbow Jeans will open as the centre’s overhaul progresses.
Craig Patterson, now based in Toronto, is the founder and Editor-in-Chief Retail Insider. He’s also a retail and real estate consultant, retail tour guide and public speaker.