Downtown Montreal seeing incredible retail boom - Retail Council of Canada
Canadian Retailer Magazine | Quebec

Downtown Montreal seeing incredible retail boom

January 15, 2020

Downtown Montreal is seeing significant investments amid an incredible transforma­tion, including public realm updates and overhauled retail properties that will make central Montreal one of North America’s most desirable urban destinations.

Landlord Ivanhoé Cambridge is leading the transformation of downtown Montreal with investments surpassing $1-billion for several of its properties. That includes the Montreal Eaton Centre, which has seen an overhaul making it almost unrecog­nizable. A smaller Montreal Eaton Centre was recently merged with the adjacent Complex Les Ailes to create a multi-level 475,000 square foot shopping complex anchored by a recently opened 40,000 square foot Time Out Market food hall as well as a 38,000 square foot Decathlon sporting goods store. In addition, a Sephora store was also renovated to reflect its flag­ship status. In the fall of 2020, Japanese fashion retailer Uniqlo will unveil its largest Canadian flagship at Montreal Eaton Centre, again solidifying the shopping centre’s presence as be­ing the heart of Montreal’s downtown retail scene. The unified Montreal Eaton Centre features three spaces for brand activa­tions, including a ‘central square’ as well as two other areas to host temporary tenants. Large windows overlooking busy Ste-Catherine Street West animate the centre which could see more than 30-million visitors pass through in 2020.

Food and beverage is a significant trend amongst landlords in Canada, and Ivanhoé Cambridge is also adding a ‘gour­met biergarten’ to its Place Ville Marie property. The 35,000 square foot space will be located under a glass pavilion space which will be built as part of the updated Place Ville Marie Esplanade, and will be named Le Cathcart Restaurants et Biergarten, according to the landlord. It will be able to ac­commodate more than 1,000 patrons at a time and will have 15 unique restaurant concepts such as resto-bars, bistros and cafés, and will include three restaurants that will have table service. The entire Place Ville Marie complex, which includes a major office tower, is seeing significant updates.

Iconic Canadian jeweller Maison Birks completed a reno­vation of its downtown Montreal flagship store in the summer of 2018, which was followed by the addition of a restaurant and a boutique hotel within the 58,000 square foot heritage building. The Birks store itself is stunning, housing in-store boutiques for brands such as Rolex and Cartier.

Around the same time, Montreal-based luxury retailer SSENSE opened a five-level flagship store in Old Montreal, which continues to see a rotation of unique brand activa­tions. SSENSE is an example of an online retailer opening a physical retail space with considerable success. Locals and visitors to the city can book appointments with stylists to try on limited edition pieces from some of the world’s best-known luxury brands, and a top-level restaurant space is part of the minimalist, concrete-heavy ambiance.

Ste-Catherine Street, itself, is seeing the addi­tion of new retailers. In the fall of 2019, Michael Kors opened its Canadian flagship store on the street, spanning three levels and 9,000 square feet. The highly experiential store is unlike any other Michael Kors store in Canada, featuring a private VIP shopping floor as well as a juice bar.

Michael Kors joined other recent retailers on Ste-Catherine Street West, which is under­going a multi-year public realm renovation. Outerwear and fashion brand Canada Goose opened an 8,000 square foot flagship on the street in the winter of 2018, joining other additions that include Canadian fashion brand Mackage as well as H&M sister label COS. More retailers are expected to descend on Montreal’s Ste-Catherine Street in 2020 and beyond as the street’s renovations are completed. Investments in other shopping complexes in the area are also adding to the attractiveness of the shopping area which serves Canada’s second-largest city.

Holt Renfrew Ogilvy

One notable downtown Montreal retail pro­ject is Holt Renfrew Ogilvy. When completed, it will become one of the finest multi-brand luxury stores in the world, boasting stunning architecture as well as an impressive roster of luxury brand concessions contained within.

The Holt Renfrew Ogilvy facade is set to become one of Montreal’s most stunning pieces of architecture

Creating the 250,000 square foot Holt Ren­frew Ogilvy store involved expanding the 160,000 square foot Ogilvy building at 1307 Ste-Catherine Street West, which also included the addition of an adjacent Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences. Holt Renfrew Ogilvy saw the merger of the city’s iconic Ogilvy department store with the Holt Renfrew store located two blocks north at 1300 Sherbrooke Street West—the Holt Renfrew store will close in March of 2020 to coincide with the comple­tion of the massive Holt Renfrew Ogilvy.

In the spring of 2019, the retailer unveiled two of its six renovated retail levels to the public. That included a basement-level beauty hall spanning 25,000 square feet, carrying some of the world’s leading cosmetic, beauty brands, and fragrances. At the same time, the company also debuted its 40,000 square foot fourth-floor men’s store, which houses 25 lux­ury brand concessions for some of the world’s biggest names. An expansive footwear area and VIP shopping suite all add to the mix which has created one of the most compre­hensive luxury brand offerings for men any­where on the continent.

Holt Renfrew Ogilvy’s business model in­cludes a considerable amount of retail space

that has been dedicated to leased concessions. The model involves brands operating their own stores which includes dictating store design, merchandising and staffing. It’s a smart move on the part of the Holt Renfrew chain as brands seek to sell direct-to-consumer at a time when brands are engaging directly with consumers through digital and social channels.

The highly anticipated ground floor luxury hall of Holt Renfrew Ogilvy has seen several concessions already open, with more on the way ahead of the store’s spring 2020 comple­tion. Stunning boutique concession spaces for brands such as Tiffany & Co., Bottega Veneta, Prada and David Yurman opened over the past several months, with Chanel joining them in a beautiful 3,300 square foot bi-level space in November of 2019. Other luxury brands will join the main-floor luxury hall including Her­mes, Louis Vuitton, Dior and others.

By the spring of 2020, Holt Renfrew Ogilvy will feature six levels of retail space. That will include an expansive women’s shoe hall and fashion and jewellery on the second floor of the store, as well as a world-class luxury women’s fashion floor on the store’s third level. The store’s fifth level will include personal shopping suites, restaurant, and a renovated ‘Tudor Hall’—the latter being a music venue that was built in 1928 and will be repurposed as an event space.

The completed Holt Renfrew Ogilvy store is expected to become an international retail destination for affluent shoppers and fans of the world’s top luxury brands. The dramatic architecture, including the restoration of herit­age elements of the original Ogilvy building, will further amplify Holt Renfrew Ogilvy’s presence as Montreal’s primary luxury retail node. The department store also acts as a high-end anchor to the immediate area, which is expected to see other high-end brands tar­get Ste-Catherine Street as well as Rue de la Montagne, which extends northward to Sher­brooke Street and upwards to beautiful Mount Royal. Downtown Montreal’s multi-year retail transformation will become an attraction for a new generation of shoppers, as the city of Montreal finds itself again as an important global fashion destination.