Holt Renfrew prepares to open stand-alone menswear store in Toronto

TORONTO – Holt Renfrew is proceeding with plans to expand its luxury retail footprint with the opening of its first store devoted solely to menswear.

Holt Renfrew Men will launch in downtown Toronto on Wednesday. The two-level, 1,532-square-metre location is just steps from its existing Bloor Street flagship, and part of a growth plan to expand its store network by 40 per cent.

The dedicated menswear store is part of $300-million investment by the retailer which will see updates to flagship stores in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto before the end of 2017, and the unveiling of new stores in Montreal and Mississauga, Ont.

Holt Renfrew president Mark Derbyshire said the move to open a men’s store is part of their efforts to “redefine luxury” and to make the shopping experience more comfortable for customers. Derbyshire said the new location will do away with separate designer shops within the store, and display items to reflect the way customers actually wear clothing.

Customized services will serve as key signatures of the menswear store, from shoe shines and on-site monogramming to personal shopping suites, made-to-measure suiting and a dedicated space for bespoke tailoring.

The store features novel artistic touches from a bronze sculpture by Canadian artist Dennis Lin to chain-link curtains on the upper level and dangling wooden shoe inserts in the footwear section. An expansive array of artifacts from NHL legend Conn Smythe’s collection will also be displayed, including a Toronto Maple Leafs mini Stanley Cup and ring and Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves.

Derbyshire said while they will take concepts from Holt Renfrew Men and incorporate them in existing shops, they feel it’s important to continue tailoring stores for each market.

“We’re very proud of the men’s business that we have today. To me, this is the future of men’s,” he said in an interview Monday.

“Bloor Street is where it’s at. This is luxury for the city of Toronto for us to be able to expand that footprint and to be able to offer men a shopping environment that, I think, curates the finest brands, within that curation edits them and presents them in a way that is very specific to the Toronto gentleman.”

As it proceeds with expansion, Holt Renfrew also recently announced plans to close existing locations in Ottawa and Quebec City by the end of January. Derbyshire said the soon-to-be-shuttered stores were “treasured markets,” but that the move is part of the “strategic growth” the retailer sees for itself moving forward. A spokesperson for the retailer said they plan to launch online sales sometime in 2015.

Holt Renfrew is preparing to face fresh competition in the high-end retail market with the anticipated launch of the first two Saks Fifth Avenue stores in Canada in the spring of 2016. The first Canadian store in the Saks’ discount chain, Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th, is also scheduled to open around the same time.

Seattle-based Nordstrom Inc. opened in Calgary this fall, with new stores in Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto in the works.

Derbyshire expressed confidence that Holt Renfrew’s established presence has the retailer well-positioned to face incoming competitors.

“It’s all about us continuing to focus on building relationships, understanding the markets for which we’ve traded in for over 177 years and … creating customized offerings by market,” he said.

“Bringing the best of the world and present(ing) it in a very uniquely Canadian point of view is what we’ve focused on, and over the last 10 years it’s served us extraordinarily well. … And I think competition will bring out the best in us all. We’ve got to stay very true to who we are and about how we present luxury and how we redefine luxury going forward.”

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