Add another foreign player to the Canadian retail invasion.
British tycoon Sir Philip Green is bringing his popular cheap-chic Topshop fashion retailer to Canada, opening his first store in a Bay in Toronto this fall.
The move, part of revival efforts at the Canadian department store chain, stands to cause ripples throughout the tightening domestic apparel landscape as yet another deep-pocketed global player comes to this country.
The Bay's franchise deal will be the British retail magnate's first step in his Canadian expansion of Topshop. It could eventually lead to its rollout of as many as 50 stores here - including its men's clothier Topman - as both standalone outlets and in-store boutiques within five years, said Bonnie Brooks, chief executive officer of the Bay.
"This is a very big deal," Ms. Brooks said on the eve of Wednesday's announcement of the Bay's exclusive Canadian franchise rights for Topshop and Topman. "Any location that gets a Topshop and Topman will have an immediate lift in sales. It could be as much as 10 per cent of the store's business within the first year of it being open."
Topshop, which operates in 37 countries and dominates Main Street retail in Britain, is yet another cheap-and-cheerful fashion player that will further squeeze existing merchants. Joe Fresh Style, the apparel line at Loblaw Cos. Ltd., is just beginning to be rolled out in standalone stores. U.S. discount giant Target Corp., known for its affordable fashions, will open its first outlets here in 2013.
Global powerhouses such as the Swedish Hennes & Mauritz and Spanish Zara have brought their fast-fashion retail concepts to Canada, shipping new styles to their stores daily and often within weeks of the designs appearing on haute-couture catwalks. In an increasingly crowded market, they put more pressure on conventional merchants to find an edge and an economical business model.
Sir Philip, whose privately held Arcadia Group operates more than 2,500 shops, will be a tough competitor, said Emanuel Weintraub, president of the eponymous management consulting firm Emanuel Weintraub Associates in Fort Lee, N.J.
While his Topshop has launched just one store in the U.S. so far - a flagship in Manhattan's SoHo district - "you can't write him off," Mr. Weintraub said.
Topshop will open more stores in Chicago and Brazil, said Mary Homer, Topshop's managing director. British news reports have suggested that it also plans to introduce outlets in Los Angeles, Miami and New York.
The advent of Topshop at the Bay is a coup for the department store retailer, which until recently was written off as a dinosaur, said Kaileen Millard-Ruff, vice-president of retail at market researcher Synovate Canada. "It will bring a younger consumer into the Bay, a more fashion-forward, engaged consumer," she said.
Since Ms. Brooks arrived 2½ years ago, she's been racing to breathe new life into the tired chain. She's added high-end fashions to the flagship Toronto store as well as stylish brands such as Juicy Couture and Diesel to other departments. The appointment of Ms. Brooks, who has international fashion retailing experience, was a signal that the new owner of parent Hudson's Bay Co. - U.S. retail magnate Richard Baker - was serious about a turnaround. Mr. Baker is now contemplating taking HBC public later this year; in January, he signed a deal to sell most of HBC's Zellers discount outlets to Target.