Saks opens 1st store in Canada in downtown Toronto

High-end U.S. retail chain Saks makes its long anticipated debut in Canada today by opening its first store in downtown Toronto.

High-end chain plans to have 7 stores across Canada by next year

Bruce Winder talks about the arrival of luxury retailer Saks Fifth Avenue in Toronto 3:58

High-end U.S. retail chain Saks makes its long anticipated debut in Canada today by opening its first store in Toronto.

Recently acquired by Hudson's Bay Company, Saks has 38 stores in 22 U.S. states, but Thursday's launch on Queen Street in downtown Toronto is the luxury chain's first location in Canada.

Another is set to open next week in suburban Etobicoke. Five more stores are expected to open in other Canadian cities in the months and years to follow.

Saks has previously said it plans to open as many as 25 Canadian locations for its lower priced Saks Off 5th chain by 2019.

Saks is just the latest U.S. chain to take aim at the Canadian market, doing battle with rival Nordstrom, which has already opened stores in Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa.

Unlike lower- and mid-tier retailers that have been grounded in a tough market, high end retailers are faring comparatively well by catering to well-moneyed clientele.

"That customer is somewhat insulated," retail consultant Bruce Winder said in an interview with CBC News. "Saks customers are quite well off, even if the stock market is down."

The Canadian launch of Saks also comes on the heels of the failure in Canada of Target, as the discount chain was done in by logistical problems and slow sales due to higher than expected prices.

Unlike Target, Winder said, he suspects Saks has done "exhaustive" research into the market by comparison shopping at new rivals such as Holt Renfrew and Harry Rosen.

"They [Saks] have learned that their pricing is right," he said. "But they're under tremendous scrutiny, so they're going one store at a time, to test and learn."

Saks is a household name in the U.S., but the chain only launched its first store in Canada on Thursday, in downtown Toronto. (Richard Drew/ Associated Press)

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