Holt Renfrew growing its footprint in downtown Vancouver with major expansion

Holt Renfrew is staking a bigger claim on the streets of downtown Vancouver with plans to expand its existing store just as competition heats up in the luxury goods market.The Canadian retailer announced details of a plan Friday to grow the size of its Dunsmuir Street store by 30 per cent, or nearly 40,000 square feet to the location.The additional floor space will give the retailer room to nearly double the size of its personal shopping area, where professionals offer style advice, while other departments like its leather goods and footwear, will nearly triple in size.Holt Renfrew will launch renovations this summer as part of a bigger $300-million investment announced last year.Vancouver is a popular tourist destination and one of the main hubs of commerce for Western Canada. Those factors haven’t been lost on the influx of luxury retailers coming to Canada and almost all have made plans to plant their flags in the coastal city.Why Target’s exit may actually be a good thing for some Canadian mallsHow these three women built profitable businesses in crowded markets“Any form of competition is great,” said Mark Derbyshire, president of Holt Renfrew in a phone interview. “Our goal has always been to position ourselves as the dominant luxury specialty retailer across Canada. To me, that’s all about ensuring that we think luxury is dynamic and constantly evolving.”This fall, U.S. retailer Nordstrom will open its third Canadian location in downtown Vancouver, just around the corner from Holt Renfrew.Even fellow Canadian brand Simons, based in Quebec, is pushing into Vancouver as part of a five-city expansion that leads into 2017.While Saks Fifth Ave. hasn’t announced a Vancouver store, the city is almost certainly one of its considerations as it ponders where to launch its next shops after its Toronto stores open next year. If that sounds crowded, consider that Vancouver already has The Room, the high-end clothing store run by Hudson’s Bay Co. (TSX:HBC).Holts says its expansion in Vancouver will be completed by the end of 2016. Part of the new space will come from moving into a store that was previously home to SportChek.The retailer wants to distance itself from competitors by having a better grasp on the relationship it creates with loyal customers.“We are not a department store and we do not approach our business as a department store,” Derbyshire said.“And we don’t look at it as a transaction, we look at it as a relationship.”He points to the Vancouver store as a prime example of how Holts approaches its clients. Between all of the staff members, employees can speak to customers in 30 different languages or dialects, which he said enhances the overall experience and creates repeat business from clients who could be shopping elsewhere.“That customer can buy those Louis Vuittons anywhere she travels,” he said. “She can buy them online. There’s lots of places where she can do it.”Web stores could be the next big challenge for Holts in the coming years, as more Canadians become comfortable shopping online. Luxury goods have been one of the few areas of retail that has generally been unaffected by the gradual migration to e-commerce.While Holt Renfrew has said it plans to launch an online shopping portal later this year, the retailer has placed most of its bets on the value of an in-store experience.The company has already made plans to update other flagship stores in Calgary and Toronto before the end of 2017, and new stores are also planned for Montreal and Mississauga, Ont. read more