Talk among a certain crowd is that Bloor St. has lost its lustre.
It might appear as much with a couple of empty storefronts in spitting distance of Gucci, the departure of Sporting Life from the corner of St. Thomas St., the impending departures of Betty Hemmings Leathergoods and Georges Rech and the recent exit of Marina Rinaldi.
But any talk of trouble is completely incorrect.
"Bloor St. had a great year last year," says commercial real estate broker Jordan Karp, on a little spree of his own in the vicinity of $650 Prada polo shirts at Holt Renfrew on Saturday. "No one is complaining. And the rents are reflecting that."
For the first time Bloor St. broke the $200 a foot barrier, with the arrival of Mappins jewellers last year. Leases are generally renewing in the $175 net and up range, Karp says.
Some are balking and walking. But for every retailer fed up with rising rents, there is another willing to pony up for Toronto's premier retail strip.
Sephora will open on the south side of Bloor St. east of Louis Vuitton, Chanel, HermÃ¨s and Prada. The French beauty giant, owned by LVMH, is displacing Corbo, Georges Rech, and Betty Hemmings.
Mendocino is opening a 3,000-square-foot shop flanking the entrance of The Colonnade to the west. Upstairs, in the defunct Patriot restaurant, celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck will open a splashy new eatery that hopes to be up and running for the Toronto Film Festival.
Coach will replace Town Shoes once the latter's lease is up. Expect a cushy Coach flagship in early 2007.
Chanel and Harry Rosen are both investing in their current digs. Though nothing is official yet, CEO Larry Rosen does confirm an update to the flagship, possibly with the addition of another selling floor. The 16-year-old Chanel boutique which added a second floor in 1997, will undergo a major overhaul next year.
"There will be a complete change to bring our flagship on par with the look of Chanel boutiques around the world including New York, Bal Harbour, Rue Cambon and Avenue Montaigne," says Anny Kazanjian, executive director of public relations for Chanel Canada. Plans for the Peter Marino-designed Zen-style space are still on the drawing board, and the firm is deciding whether it will have to close altogether or relocate to some other part of The Colonnade during construction.
Club Monaco on Bloor is about to have its tenth anniversary. My friend and I, who worked there when it opened and loaded and unloaded countless trucks at all hours, plan on getting very drunk and making quite the unpleasant scene inside as a tribute.
Incidentally, Joe Mimran is a degenerate lush who would shamelessly paw all the cute salesgirls during vodka-soaked client events.
It's about time they updated the Bloor Street Harry Rosen. I was in there on Good Friday, and couldn't believe how dated it had become. Hopefully, they'll fire the ugly schlubs who work there, or at least tell them not to smoke around the doors of the store.
Let's hope the U of T Art Centre moves into the Club Monaco building eventually, as has been proposed. Filthy Mammon ousted by culture.
The Harry Rosen building used to be a beer tavern when I was in high school. We'd hitch rides downtown from Willowdale on dusty summer days, get a little intoxicated, visit the Yorkville galleries, and explore sleepy Bloor Street and environs.
I was in Rosen three weeks ago, glancing at the white suits and the dinner jackets in the basement. The salesjerk asked if I was getting married. I said no. He said, "Are you sure?" so I asked, "Why, what do you have in mind?" ... and he moved away swiftly.
Bloor St. W.'s retail renaissance
Rents on the upscale Bloor St. W. shopping strip have doubled in 4 years
Oct. 27, 2006. 06:41 AM
It's no secret Toronto's fabled Bloor St. W., home of retailers such as Prada, Hermes, and Chanel, is centre ice for the Canadian luxury market.
But the area just got a little more exclusive according to a report released yesterday by Cushman & Wakefield LePage, placing it in 22nd spot among the most expensive retail locations in the world, up two spots from the year before.
Thanks to strong consumer confidence, good employment numbers that have boosted demand for luxury goods and a higher Canadian dollar, the coveted retail strip â€” sandwiched between Yonge St. and Avenue Rd. â€” retains its first-place spot in Toronto.
Nationally, Bloor St. W. tied with Vancouver's upscale Robson St. for the honour of the most expensive street in Canada. It costs retailers an average of $208 per square foot for the privilege of being on either street. Only four years ago, rents on Bloor were almost half that price at $110 per square foot.
"If you're a top high-end retailer, this is the place that you want to be," said John Crombie, vice-president and national retail director of Cushman & Wakefield.
Strong consumer confidence and bullish retailers have created demand on the strip, which has virtually no vacancies.
"It's not easy to get on Bloor; there is a real demand for the area," said Crombie, who is currently scouting locations for one international retailer who is looking for 5,000 square feet on the strip.
Mid-market retailers are also targeting the strip, hoping their stores and signage become major billboards for affluent customers.
Last year discount designer store Winners and lingerie company La Senza took prime spots on the strip. International retailers such as Williams Sonoma have been there since 2002.
While there has been some controversy over whether the street will retain its exclusiveness, Crombie said the diversity of stores will offer a broader appeal to shoppers.
"The area has undergone a real renaissance," said Wayne Kingsland, the owner of the Montblanc boutique on Bloor St. "But we have really benefited from being in such close proximity to other luxury stores and hotels. This is where the carriage trade comes to stay and shop."
When Montblanc decided to open its only freestanding boutique in Canada, Bloor St. was the logical location, Kingsland said. "It has been a very important part of our strategy."
The store remains one of the top- performers globally for the luxury goods chain.
Kingsland is celebrating his 10th year on the strip this year, and while his rent may have gone up, so have the prices of some of the offerings in his store.
At Montblanc for example, you can take away a sport diving watch for $25,000, or special-order a diamond-encrusted pen for $250,000.
Still, despite the high rents, Crombie estimates some stores are pulling in more than $2,000 per square foot in sales, making for a robust profit margin.
Other areas in Toronto that are doing well include the trendy Queen St. W. strip, where rents have gone up about 25 per cent over the last year.
But Toronto rents pale in comparison to New York's 5th Ave., which takes the top spot in the survey at the equivalent of $1,505 per square foot.
"It's a totally different situation in New York where it's all about getting the branding with the real estate," Crombie said.
As part of the marketing budget, some retailers will operate at a loss just to be on 5th Ave., where they get visibility and their stores become giant billboards. The halo effect is expected to permeate to other stores down the chain.
The biggest mover this year has been in the Asia Pacific region. New Delhi has seen the biggest rise, up 17 spots to take Toronto's old spot at Number 24, for its average rents of $201 per square foot.
A very large number of shops on Bloor between Avenue & Bay are being gutted & renovated. Is this just coincidence, convenient timing (slow season), or retailers collectively deciding that with the Bloor Street revitalization coming it makes sense to just get it all done?
I'm just glad it is happening. When I saw the Chanel signs on the old Grand&Toy/Aveda tiny store, I was like "Another one bites the dust!" or gets smaller. But they are just renovating. Their store was in need of it. I wonder if it is in response to the Louis Vuitton makeover. Maybe LV's sales increased dramatically after the makeover. Who knows.
It would be nice to get some of the trendier middle-end designers to open a store. G-star, Diesel, Energie/Miss Sixty all do great retail. Gucci's nice an all, but $550 for a pair of jeans? Not likely. Plus the selection at Holt's is sometimes tiny.
Although I think Toronto with its conservative WASPy ways could support a Burberry store. The Burberry store in NYC is super conservative, with only a tiny section of their modern line on the 5th floor.