One month into 2015 and already the retail landscape of Vancouver’s urban trendsetting Robson and luxury brand saturated Alberni Street has been subject to upheaval.
Still the one question on every avid shopper’s mind is where is Uniqlo? Speculation has abounded since 2012 on where the Japanese fast-fashion retailer would place its flagship shop in Vancouver.
“Uniqlo is working with a Canadian broker to secure Canadian locations, including a large Robson Street flagship,” Retail Insider reported. “Although no deal has concluded, it’s only a matter of time before Uniqlo announces its first Vancouver store.”
There were previously local retail industry discussions that Nordstrom has acquired the Canadian franchise rights to Uniqlo and plans to open a large Uniqlo flagship store within the Nordstrom Vancouver flagship, which is slated to open September 18, 2015.
However, both Nordstrom and Uniqlo have been unable to confirm such plans at this time. Such a move would replicate a model similar to the Hudson’s Bay Company’s recent acquisition of the Topshop/Topman franchise in Canada.
Uniqlo announced Monday, January 26, that it will open two stores in Toronto, Canada in the fall of 2016, marking the brand’s first entry into the country and its 18th market overall. The stores will be located at Yorkdale Shopping Centre, one of the highest performing shopping centers in North America and Toronto Eaton Centre, a historic landmark and one of Canada’s best-known shopping destinations. These flagship level stores at 24,000 sq. feet and 28,000 sq. feet respectively, will offer the brand’s full range of men’s, women’s and children’s items.
“Entering the Canadian market is a milestone for the company and a significant step in our growth strategy,” said Larry Meyer, CEO of UNIQLO USA and Canada. “Our first two stores in the great City of Toronto will mark the launch of the UNIQLO brand in Canada, which we aim to build upon thereafter with a presence in the lovely city of Vancouver.”
Uniqlo goes global
Rival H&M arrived in Canada a decade ago and whetted local shoppers appetites for fast fashion. Since then, retailers like Forever 21, Aeropostale, Joe Fresh, Zara and Hollister have settled in. Given the competition and the healthy marketplace for the established stores, Uniqlo has made no secret of its plan to conquer the Canadian retail market starting in 2016.
At the end of August 2013, Uniqlo Japan had 853 stores nationwide, including 19 franchise stores. Since opening the first store outside Japan in 2001, Uniqlo International has expanded to 446 stores, with 280 stores in Mainland China, 105 in South Korea and 39 elsewhere in Asia.
Store development has been especially rapid in Asia and they have a modestly sized network in the United States with 38 stores, including 26 located on the East Coast and 12 on the West Coast.
Uniqlo has offered shoppers unique collaborations such as the current cotton and denim casual line with a chic Parisian feel designed by Ines de la Fressange, a sweats collection with the infamous Helmut Lang, pretty retro dresses with UK textile designer Celia Birtwell, casual patterned wear with Irish designer Orla Kiely and quirky t-shirts with Lulu Guinness.
They also are collaborating with MoMA with the SPRZ NY collection. The MoMA Special Edition designs are available online and based on the works of world-renowned artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Jack Pierson, Jackson Pollock, Lawrence Weiner, Ryan McGinness, and Sarah Morris.
(This article by Helen Siwak was originally published in VancityBuzz.com)