Retail Outlook 2016: Downtown lap of luxury gets deeper

Upscale brand boutiques, new mall, store expansions will continue to transform Vancouver’s core shopping district landscape

Shoppers on Vancouver’s Granville Mall, which has benefited from the arrival of Nordstrom at Pacific Centre | Chung Chow

Vancouver’s retail landscape will see major changes in 2016. A massive new suburban shopping centre will open and several popular downtown stores will expand. Robson Street will see several exciting new retailers on its struggling 1100-block and more luxury stores will open in downtown Vancouver’s luxury zone.

Hybrid outlet mall

Metro Vancouver’s second outlet mall, Tsawwassen Mills, will open in the fall of 2016. The 1.2 million-square-foot mall will be a hybrid, mixing outlet retail with full-priced stores. The region’s first off-price Saks Fifth Avenue store, Saks Off 5th, will open in the centre, along with 15 other anchors, restaurants and a 1,100-square-foot food court. Another newcomer to the region, Bass Pro Shops, will be the centre’s largest anchor, at 145,000 square feet.

An adjacent big-box centre, the 550,000-square-foot Tsawwassen Commons, will join the Mills, both on land owned by Tsawwassen First Nation. Tsawwassen Commons will not have outlet tenants.

The McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Vancouver Airport, which opened last summer and was named as the world’s best outlet mall at a European retail awards ceremony in November, will commence construction of its 140,000-square-foot Phase 2 expansion this year. That expansion is slated to open in 2017

Vancouver was the first North American location for U.K.-based McArthurGlen Designer Outlets, which operates luxury-focused outlet malls primarily in Europe. The Vancouver general manager, Robert Thurlow, said he expects more luxury brands to open at the centre in 2016. 

Addressing competition from Nordstrom’s (Nasdaq:JWN) recently opened flagship, Holt Renfrew will expand its 150,000-square-foot CF Pacific Centre store by about 40,000 square feet by the end of 2016.

Included will be a new restaurant as well as expanded departments. The leather goods section will triple in size to 30,000 square feet, becoming Canada’s largest handbags department. The women’s shoe department will also triple in size to about 10,000 square feet of selling space. A beauty hall will expand by 50%. The store will also feature a luxury shopping apartment on its top level, as well as new personal shopping suites.

Robson renaissance

There is good news for Robson Street’s struggling 1100-block, between Thurlow Street and Bute Street, with several new tenants recently announced for current vacancies.

Nike (Nasdaq:NKE) will open a 4,000-square-foot, two-level store in the former Mexx location at 1119 Robson Street in mid-2016.

A few doors west, French confectionery Ladurée (known for its macarons) will open its first Canadian store at 1141 Robson, featuring retail as well as a 22-seat tearoom.

Aritzia’s Robson Street flagship will also expand on the block in early 2016, taking over the former Starbucks (Nasdaq:SBUX)/Cafe Artigiano space at 1100 Robson to create the company’s largest Canadian store, measuring over 13,000 square feet.

Farther east along Robson Street, across from the recently opened Nordstrom, Sport Chek will open a 53,000-square-foot flagship in the former Chapters (TSX:IDG) bookstore space in April, featuring various technological innovations including multiple video screens and digital displays to showcase products.

Luxury retail

The retail luxury zone, located between the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and the Shangri-La Hotel along Alberni Street and adjacent thoroughfares, will be the site of several luxury-brand openings this year.

Pricey Italian brand Prada is building a three-level flagship at the southeast corner of the intersection of Alberni and Thurlow streets. It is expected to be slightly smaller than the expanded 13,000-square-foot Toronto flagship.

In March, Italian super-luxury men’s fashion brand Stefano Ricci will open next to Trump International Hotel & Tower Vancouver, on West Georgia Street. The 2,600-square-foot, franchised Ricci store will be operated by Manuel Bernaschek, who also owns retailer Showcase Pianos.

Tiffany & Co. will expand its 4,700-square-foot store at the northwest corner of Burrard and Alberni streets, taking over second-level space occupied by Japanese restaurant Kamei Royale. Tiffany’s Burrard Street store opened in late 2006 and is one of the company’s most productive locations.

More luxury store announcements are on the way, according to sources. They will join recently opened luxury brands in the area, such as Versace, Dior, Brunello Cucinelli, Moncler, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and Strellson. Longtime luxury retailers in the area include Louis Vuitton, Montblanc, Hermes and Gucci.

Craig Patterson ( is a retail analyst and consultant. He is president and CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd.