En­try of Saks, Nord­strom into Canada boosts stakes

National Post (National Edition) - - FINANCIAL POST - H O LT Fi­nan­cial Post hshaw@na­tion­al­post.com Twit­ter.com/Hol­lieKShaw

Con­tin­ued from FP1

Holt Ren­frew has seven stores in Canada and is owned by Canada’s We­ston fam­ily, whose hold­ings in­clude Loblaw and Sel­fridges.

“As is of­ten the case with a new pres­i­dent, we have made some changes to our lead­er­ship in­clud­ing sev­eral new ap­point­ments and pro­mo­tions in or­der to drive our busi­ness for­ward and con­tinue to main­tain our lux­ury po­si­tion­ing,” Plener said of seven new ex­ec­u­tive hires, in­clud­ing new chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Rob Zei­del, for­merly of Loblaw, and new se­nior vice-pres­i­dent and gen­eral mer­chan­dise man­ager Linda DeFrances, for­merly of Saks. Plener also con­firmed 10 man­age­ment pro­mo­tions and changes.

It is a chal­leng­ing time in broader re­tail given the on­go­ing si­phon­ing of re­tail store sales to e-com­merce sites. And for Canada’s tiny lux­ury mar­ket, the stakes have never been higher for Holts, whose clout has been threat­ened by the en­try of Saks and Nord­strom over the last two years.

“It has been ev­i­dent for some time that Holts has been strug­gling,” said Wendy Evans, prin­ci­pal of Toron­to­based re­tail con­sul­tancy Evans and Co. Con­sul­tants Inc. “They are not dif­fer­en­ti­ated enough from Saks and Nord­strom, so they need to make some big changes.”

Oth­ers have long said that there is not a big enough mar­ket for lux­ury ap­parel in Canada to sus­tain the new and up­com­ing square footage. “Saks and The Room (at Hud­son’s Bay) and Nord­strom seem to be lead­ing the way at this junc­ture,” said Fred Waks, chief ex­ec­u­tive at Toronto-based real es­tate de­vel­oper Trin­ity De­vel­op­ment Group Inc.

“With four op­er­a­tions, (Canada) can’t sus­tain it. This is just the be­gin­ning from my per­spec­tive. Ser­vice in the stores will be a key fac­tor in terms of who is go­ing to sur­vive and who will thrive,” Waks said, not­ing Saks has “picked up its game” in terms of mer­chan­dise and store ser­vice.

“A lot of the haute cou­ture staffing at Holts has changed and they have moved over to The Room,” Waks added.

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