Well, if you’re a shopper like myself, you follow these openings with interest for the simple reason that having more places to shop is a good thing!
While I could talk about the department store and its future (not very promising according to some experts), I’m not going to because I happen to love department stores and want them to be around forever. An excellent article on The Business of Fashion website talks about the challenges and changes coming for department stores.
Instead, I want to talk about why I think Saks Fifth Avenue has arrived in Toronto at just the right time for both the retailer and the consumer.
Firstly, can we talk about our Canadian Dollar and the fact that it’s trading around 70 cents US for the first time in the past 13 years? What’s more upsetting is that the currencies were at par only 3 years ago. Now all I hear is my family and friends outside Canada wanting to come shop here because ‘it’s such a good deal’. Of course it is at that exchange rate. I’m expecting Canada to be packed with visitors this year!
And, visitors mean shoppers. With the Eaton Centre being a huge tourist destination, that means good things for Saks’ customers. It’s actually a double whammy in terms of prices and selection. I suspect that the Saks Eaton Centre will be extra-stocked with the latest inventory to meet shopping demands and to ensure a great first year in sales.
Not to beat a dead horse here, but keep in mind that a weak Canadian dollar also means very little shopping is done in the US by vacationing Canadians due to sticker shock. We’re spending our money here in Canada, and it’s nice to have Saks this side of the border.
Secondly, let’s talk about designer depth. Before Saks came to Canada, the only place to get luxury designer goods was at a handful of stores like Holt Renfrew, Davids, Browns, Andrews, a smattering of independents, and the stand-alone boutiques on Bloor St. But the depth of the labels offered wasn’t there.
At Saks 10022 shoe salon, the number of styles carried by designers such as Jimmy Choo, Valentino, Aquazurra, Alaia, and Alexandre Birman makes you feel like a kid in a (very expensive) candy store. My point is that you have a huge selection of shoes from these high end designers right here in Toronto – no need to travel. This depth applies to handbags as well with Chloe, Celine, and Givenchy boutiques within Saks.
Finally, let’s talk about offering a great shopping experience for the guys! The men’s department at the Saks Eaton Centre looks like a members only airport lounge. It’s a big circular space, with its own shoe department and designer brands such as Z Zegna and French bathing suit manufacturer Vilebrequin. Although these brands are available at other Toronto retailers, I noticed more men shopping in the men’s department than women shopping in the women’s department when I was there last Sunday. It must be the open floor concept that makes the experience feel casual. And, the inviting atmosphere means the ladies can rest on the sofas while waiting for their guys to shop. It’s about time.
Hudson’s Bay, my favorite department store since I moved to Canada, owns Saks and will have to do some work in minimizing the ‘double-parking’ of brands. Today, you will find many brands carried in both Hudson’s Bay and Saks. I’m sure that’ll change as the two names figure out how to meet customer demands while sharing the Hudson’s Bay building at Queen St.
You could feel the buzz and excitement of having Saks in Canada and at the Eaton Centre last weekend, making the store a downtown shopping destination and experience. Still to come are the Pusateri’s Food Hall and Lena Restaurant by Chef Anthony Walsh, which will add the gastronomical element we expect from a department store.
So, the time is now and the place is here for Saks Fifth Avenue in Canada. I’m thrilled because we deserve it!
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