A hallmark of the Canadian retail world has had its lease terminated at Coquitlam’s biggest mall after it failed to pay rent.
The Hudson’s Bay Company’s location at Coquitlam Centre was shuttered Saturday, November 21, even as the mall filled with weekend shoppers. Inside, the lights had gone dark, save for the odd Christmas tree lit up for the pending shopping season.
“Black Friday warm up,” read one sign looking ahead to next week’s major shopping holiday.
No staff were in sight. A notice posted at the store’s entrance by landlord and mall owner Morguard Investments Ltd., stated the company had defaulted on its rent payments.
“The Premises has been re-entered and the Lease has been terminated by the Landlord for default in the payment of rent,” began the notice dated November 21.
The letter notes the department store has 30 days to dispute the existence of the default.
A spokesperson for HBC told the Tri-City News that the company is working with its landlords across North America to “amicably and logically share the losses incurred during the pandemic.”
“We believe that there are fair solutions to be had as we recover from this public health crisis,” wrote HBC spokesperson Tiffany Bourré in an email. “In this instance, we are eager to reach a fair resolution, just as we have done with other landlord partners.”
The Tri-City News reached out to the landlord but has not received a response.
The iconic retailer just celebrated its 350th anniversary, but despite its staying power, the pandemic has strained the company’s viability.
This isn’t the first time HBC has struggled to pay its rent.
How the termination of the lease in Coquitlam will play out is not yet clear; however, recent court case suggests it could be a tortuous path.
According to a Toronto Star report published Saturday, court records show the company has leases valued at $20 million a month and hasn’t paid any rent to eight landlords across Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Florida.
And earlier this month in Ontario, a judge ordered HBC to pay half the rent it owed to a Toronto-area mall after it failed to pay rent for seven months.
The legal disputes highlight a growing tension between landlords and commercial tenants at a time when the second wave of the pandemic shows no sign of slowing.
But they also reveal a more fundamental shift in consumer behaviour that has only been accelerated by the pandemic: as shoppers continue their steady march away from bricks-and-mortar stores and towards online shopping, many of the country’s most iconic retailers are grappling with their very survival.