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O Canada!

Retailers are finding many reasons to head north of the border



Retailers looking to expand their brands and businesses to new customers are frequently setting a course for Canada. Ann Taylor introduced its stylish women’s apparel to the country’s retail landscape last year. Target’s chic, affordable fashions and home goods will make an entrance this spring, with an aggressive goal to open up to 200 stores throughout the country in the next 10 years. Not far behind, luxury department store retailer Nordstrom plans its Canadian debut for fall 2014, with stores in Calgary, Ottawa and Vancouver.

So what is it about this North American country that’s got everyone talking?

For one, it’s full of opportunity. Canada has just over half the square footage of retail selling space per person as the U.S. does, according to a report by SCI Logistics. In the U.S., that translates to roughly 7.3 billion square feet of retail space, or about 23 square feet per person. In Canada, that number drops to 500 million square feet or about 14 square feet per person, according to the report.

Canada’s retail sector also has ample room to grow. The population of the country’s Western provinces – including British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba – exceeded that of Quebec and the Atlantic provinces for the first time in 2011, reports Colliers Intl.

That’s not to say it’s without some challenges. For one, the country is massive, spanning six times zones and 10 provinces. As with any move abroad, there are also cultural differences to understand (immigration accounts for two-thirds of Canada’s national population growth), regional nuances to perfect (Parlez-vous français?) and business logistics to master. Still, from a business perspective, these pros outweigh the cons.

VMSD will turn its radar screens to this land of opportunity in 2013, with case studies on some of the country’s newest projects, an in-depth look at Canada’s retail landscape and the challenges and opportunities of expanding north. And in September, we invite you to take a first-hand look at one of Canada’s top cities – Vancouver – as we take our International Retail Design Conference to the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver, September 17-19. (For more information, visit


There, you’ll get the chance to take in the country’s beautiful scenery; explore home-grown retail brands, including Holt Renfrew, Lululemon and Obakki; and maybe even try some poutine. Most of all, you’ll get a fresh perspective on retail’s ever-evolving landscape.



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