Go luxe for a less frenetic black friday
Luxury retailers in canada offer unique choices
When it comes to Black Friday offerings, the newly vibrant luxury shopping segment should give well-healed Canadians a reason to shop at home, says Jim Danahy, CEO of retail advisory firm the customerLab in Toronto. “We’ve certainly seen an expansion in that segment and we expect more of it,” he said.
In the past few years, Canada has seen American lux retailers Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue arrive on the scene, while homegrown Holt Renfrew has expanded its presence. “We’ve never seen so much competition in the luxury shopping category,” said Danahy.
What’s driving the growth? At least for the American retailers, it’s a function of the fact that growth at home has been sluggish, says Wendy Liebmann, CEO of WSL Strategic Retail. And when they’re looking to expand, they tend to look for “places where there seems to be space in the market to offer unique choices and that are more culturally familiar and affordable,” she said. “In the case of Canada, there’s a lot of real estate space.”
But when it comes to holiday deals, Danahy warns, “Black Friday and luxury shopping are a bit of an oxymoron.” Although many of these retailers may offer special promotional merchandise for the holidays, “they tend to compete more on assortment and service, than on price,” he said.
For example, Nordstrom — which now has five locations in Toronto (two), Ottawa, Vancouver and Calgary — is known for its attentive sales staff. It has hired an additional 11,400 seasonal employees for stores in Canada and the U.S., about 9,500 of them in sales and stock positions.
Nordstrom will kick off the holiday season with free silver gift boxes in every department and its own army of elves; better known as personal stylists. Although the stylist service is available free year-round, it’s a particularly “helpful time saver during the busy holidays,” said spokesperson John Bailey.
Customers can make an appointment with a stylist by phone, online or in person, he adds, and they’ll “take care of everything on your list from finding the perfect gift to decking you out for party season. They’ll even put items in gift boxes and ship your packages.”
Nordstrom isn’t dispensing with sales either. It will offer an extra 20 per cent off select clearance items from Nov. 24 through Nov. 28, for example. But Bailey says the company still doesn’t really have a sense of how Black Friday will “translate in Canada,” since it just opened its doors.
Saks Fifth Avenue will put the focus on customer service this holiday season. Its 25,000-squarefoot space in Toronto offers personal stylists to give customers the kind of VIP treatment they can’t get just anywhere. Think access to a private lounge and roomy luxury shopping suites.
And if you’re looking for shoes…well, Saks Eaton Centre location offers more than a thousand pairs to choose from, including an entire table of Manolo Blahnik. Called 10022, the Saks shoe section is named after the original Manhattan store’s shoe department — it was so expansive it required a new zip code.
That said, “don’t expect a whole lot from Sak’s that is pricerelated,” said Danahy. “They may have special merchandise and special offers, but it’s less likely to be driven by price.”
Ditto for Holt Renfrew — which Danahy calls the “doyen of luxury retailers in Canada.” Its four stores in Toronto and one store each in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver have already begun to display an assortment of high-end stocking stuffers such as a Rebecca Minkoff cardholder ($100) and an Anya Hindmarch coin purse with a pixelated smile ($395). And you’ll also find a range of seasonal cosmetic gift sets ranging in price from $32 to $2,415.
nordstrom will kick off the holiday season with free silver gift boxes in every department. Todd Korol/ToronTo STar