Holt Renfrew to close Ottawa, Quebec City stores in 2015

Luxury retailer Holt Renfrew says it will close its smaller locations in Ottawa and Quebec City by January 2015 in favour of expanding other locations in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.

Luxury retailer expanding stores in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal; opening new store in Mississauga

This is one of Holt Renfrew's flagship locations at 50 Bloor St. W in Toronto. The retailer is focusing its investments towards these stores and closing smaller stores, including the one in Ottawa. (CBC)

Luxury retailer Holt Renfrew will close its smaller stores in Ottawa and Quebec City to help it expand in other Canadian cities, as well as open a new store in Mississauga, Ont.

In a news release issued Thursday, Holt Renfrew says it is strategically focusing store expansion plans on flagship markets in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal.

They decided to close smaller 35,000-square-foot regional stores in Ottawa and Quebec City by January 2015 as a result.

"Holt Renfrew explored a number of options for its businesses in these markets. While the stores performed well and these communities were cherished, it was ultimately concluded that Holt Renfrew's enhanced specialty luxury business model requires a significantly larger store footprint in any target market," the release said.

The closure in Ottawa will result in 72 layoffs, while the Quebec City closure will lead to 85 layoffs.

Holt Renfrew is also opening a new 120,000-square-foot store at Square One in Mississauga, west of Toronto, in spring 2016.

Plans for its flagship stores will see a 40-per-cent increase in space across Canada. That includes:

  • An expanded 120,000-square-foot store at Yorkdale in Toronto.
  • A new 220,000-square-foot Montreal store to be completed at the end 2017, making it among the largest in the Holt Renfrew network.
  • Holt Renfrew Men to open this fall at 100 Bloor St. W in Toronto.
  • Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto (Bloor Street) flagship stores will be renovated and expanded.

Holt Renfrew was founded in Quebec City in 1837 but its headquarters is now based in Toronto.

Leaving 'government towns'

Carleton University business professor Ian Lee said the retailer is moving out of cities with a high number of government workers as opposed to private-sector employees.

"If you're targeting highly-paid executives and professionals, government towns like Ottawa and Quebec City are not as attractive as Toronto and Calgary where the salary of the executive is much higher," he said.

"Ottawa-Gatineau is dominated by the government of Canada… the provincial government is here, the municipal government is here, school boards, hospitals, universities… 25 per cent of the economy is the public sector in Ottawa. Quebec City is similarly dominated by the government of Quebec."

Lee said he doesn't believe that Holt Renfrew is in trouble because if it was, it wouldn't be expanding.

The head of the business improvement area covering Ottawa's Holt Renfrew said its relatively isolated location set it apart from other high-end shops.

"It's going to be felt in the downtown area, but it's also an opportunity for those companies that have been wanting to come to an area like Sparks Street," said Les Gagne, executive director of the Sparks Street BIA.

Ottawa is getting a new Nordstrom's location at the Rideau Centre, which offers similar high-end clothing.

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