Yorkdale Mall

18 May

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Quick Review

This is Canada’s first mall—as in, first place in sales (as reported in my favorite retail blog, retail-insider.com, and not just in Canada—but at times, in all of North America), first stop in Canada for many international chains and first in my heart (along with Carrefour Laval and Place Ste-Foy). It’s a hulking, ever-growing mass hunk of Class A shopping.

The selection is outstanding. Kind of like a society page of retailers, every major retailer is here or on its way here (except Dollarama).

  • The top department stores: Hudson’s Bay, Holt Renfrew and, soon, Nordstrom’s (under construction) and Simon’s.
  • The top luxury retailers (in their own special luxury wing): Bulgari, Burberry, Cartier, Chanel, David Yurman, Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Ted Baker, Tiffany, and Louis Vuiltton, Versace.
  • The top fashion houses: Armani Exchange, Bench, Forever 21, Gap, Garage, H&M, Harry Rosen, Hugo Boss, Lacoste, Levi’s, North Face, Topshop/Topman, and Zara.
  • The top footwear stores: Aldo, Brown’s, B2, Ecco, Johnston & Murphy, Nine West.
  • The top housewares stores: Crate & Barrel, Home Outfitters, Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma, and Zara Home.
  • The top media, gadgets and software stores: Apple, Indigo, Microsoft, Sportchek, and Tesla.
  • Yorkdale even has a Shoppers Drug Mart.

But not only is the selection of stores outstanding, most of those stores are flagship or Class A stores, meaning that they have a more extensive selection of merchandise and they display it more sumptuously than in other malls. Take Hudson’s Bay, one of the few mall stores in this chain that have been thoroughly remodeled (rather than moving a few things around and slapping some paint on them). The store is minimalist chic—like its recently opened Lord & Taylor store in Crossgates Mall in Albany, New York, and even reminiscent of Bloomingdale’s chic stores in Soho, New York, and Santa Monica, California. The layout is clean and somewhat sparse (relying mostly on paint on the wall rather than flooring and hardware to give the space style), and the merchandise attractive, easy to browse, and extensive—with merchandise not typically found in mall-based Hudson Bay stores. In fact, the only part of this store that was not renovated were the washrooms.

Similarly, the Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma stores are both flagships, which expanded merchandise (including a few of the Williams Sonoma home items that are typically only available by catalog) and have second stories (not typical of most Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma stores). In addition, Harry Rosen recently expanded and remodeled its store to be one of its stores of the future.

Despite the long list of tony store names, bargains can be found. During a recent visit, I found a desk organizer in Pottery Barn. I planned to purchase it in the US, where it cost $US 79. I found it on sale at Yorkdale for $CDN 49. I verified the price before buying it, and was heartened that some North American chains offer better prices in Canada than in the US.

Hungry? The mall offers a variety selection of food options. Its food court features china plates, real silverware, and real glasses, as is increasingly typical in middle- and upper-strata malls in Canada. But the selection of food outlets is a bit pedestrian; nothing that can’t be found in any other mall in Ontario, like Jimmy the Greek and Shanghai 360. Seating is also extremely limited; demand far exceeds the number of spaces.

Restaurants are of the chain variety: Moxie’s, Pickle Barrel. Probably the most unique choice will be in the department stores. Right now, just Holt Refrew offers a restaurant. But Nordstrom will offer, at the least, a coffee bar and Simons, if it follows the lead of its store in Galeris d’Anjou, could have a nice lunch place. Coffee options include an always-crowded Starbuck’s, a café in Indigo, a second cup, a Nespresso (which usually has great food, though high prices) and, because this is Canada, a Tim’s.

Another challenge is parking. Nearly all of the parking is in garages and no matter how much the mall expands the number of parking spaces (the number increases with each of its frequent additions), demand always seems to outstrip supply. A better choice is the Subway, which has a station that directly connects to the southeastern edge of the mall.

If you want exercise, a visit to Yorkdale will surely offer it. The mall is large, essentially on a single level, and has many, many north-south and east-west hallways. Getting around the entire mall should ensure that visitors reach or near the daily recommended count of 10,000 steps.

In other words, Yorkdale offers an unparalleled shopping experience: in terms of selection of stores, selection of merchandise within them, in terms of exercise opportunities; and in terms of finding a parking space. About the only thing that’s ordinary about this mall is the food. But that’s OK; Yorkdale is all about the shopping.

Mall at a Glance

Anchors:

  • Department stores: Holt-Renfrew, Hudson’s Bay. Coming: Nordstrom’s (fall 2016), Simon’s (date not announced).
  • Also: Indigo, movie theatres.

National chains:

  • Canadian firsts: Apple, Bath & Body Works, Crate & Barrel, GEOX, John Varvatos, Kate Spade, Microsft, Salvatore Ferragamo, Ted Baker, Tesla, Zara Home, Tumi, White House Black Market
  • Other stores: Aldo, Anthropologie, Chanel, Coach, Crate & Barrel, Danier Leather, Gap, Harry Rosen, Home Outfitters, Old Navy, Papyrus, Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma, Zara.

Variety of merchandise: Fashion: Unparalleled. Footwear: Excellent. Housewares: Excellent. Electronics: Very good. Sports: Fair. General merchandise: Poor.

Prices in the mid- to upper-ranges.

Special notes:

Traffic is heavy, especially later in the day and on weekends, but even during weekday afternoons. Parking is almost always a challenge to find.

To avoid that, try taking the Subway to Yorkdale (has its own station that connects to the Southeast corner of the mall).
For visitors looking to operate without a car and who don’t mind walking through the mall with a suitcase, stay at the Holiday Inn across the street from the northwest corner of the mall.

The mall is essentially a single level and has hundreds of stores. Plan on walking a lot.

Visitors from China: Yorkdale is the first mall to accept the UnionPay charge card.

Food court: One of the few upper-level stores. Features china plates, reusable silverware, and real glasses rather than disposables. Selection is ordinary: A&W, Jimmy the Greek, KFC, MachuWok, Shanghai 360, Subway, Thai Express, and Villa Madina among others.

Seating is limited, finding a table during regular meal hours can be a challenge on weekends and during holiday seasons.

Other restaurants throughout the mall, mostly Canadian chains like Milestones, Moxie’s and the Pickle Barrel.

Several options for coffee breaks, including Espressemante (Illy), Nespresso, Second Cup, Starbucks (always crowded, seating limited) and David’s Tea and Teavana (OK-tea break).

Wikipedia page (English only): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yorkdale_Shopping_Centre

Website (English only): http://www.yorkdale.com

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Yahrtzeit for Target (Addendum): A Reading List

27 Apr

Target’s public relationship with Canada lasted about 4 years to the day, the average length of an Elizabeth Taylor marriage, with the announcement of its arrival January 13, 2011 and the announcement of its departure, January 15, 2015.

Here’s a trip down memory lane.

Note that all links worked when this post was originally written but because external sites change, might not be active when you try to visit them.

High hopes The Announcement Day: January 13, 2011 Target buys Zellers leases for $1.8B

Met with

“When is Target going to buy Zellers and come to Canada?” has been the most-asked question posed to this reporter over the years at the office water cooler and at parties — it seems most consumers who have visited the cheap chic Wal-Mart rival as it successfully expanded across the U.S. prefer its cheap chic stylings to that of Zellers. (Close behind in popularity: “When is J Crew coming to Canada?” That is supposed to happen at a mystery location in Toronto later this year. Stay tuned!)

Saw some early problems: Starting with another store that named itself Target in anticipation of the moment:

Commenting on Target’s arrival, one American retail analyst commented that Canadians have “had so many lousy retailers like Zellers and all these crappy guys. You’ve had all these dumps who acted like retailers but really were cadavers,” Mr. Davidowitz said.

2012 Excitement builds Emerging Designer Award winner’s collection for its Quebec stores; Toronto Fashion Incubator’s New Labels contest winner gets cross-Canada exposure 
Flash forward to 2015  
2013 Opening day—and already sensing problems In this interview with then Target Canada president Tony Fisher (Why Canadians are paying more at Target), Globe and Mail retail reporter Marina Strauss focuses on the already noticeable differences in prices between Target Canada and Target USA.

Here are my 2013 notes on this article:

“Geez this guy sounds culturally limited. Look at the comments on Halifax, as if the interviewer—a Canadian—had no knowledge of it.”

 

2014 Anticipating the unthinkable By Fall 2014, rumors started to swirl that Target was considering exiting Canada—many in response to analysts suggestions that Target high-tail it back to the USA.

However, the retailer expanded aggressively in the region without setting up an effective supply chain to supplement its needs. Due to Canadian packaging laws, protectionist tariffs on certain food products and exclusive wholesale agreements, Target’s U.S. network cannot serve its Canadian business. Hence, the retailer had established a fresh supply chain network for Canada, which wasn’t too efficient.

Due to this, customer response to Target was much worse than the cheap chic retailer expected, which resulted in low store traffic and subsequently, heavy markdowns.

 

2015 Continuing to anticipate the unthinkable Why Canada Is Giving Target Heartburn

 

The unthinkable happens
Instant answers Within days of the departure—and for weeks afterwards—many offered their explanations of Target’s demise. Each offered a unique insight but they all tended to focus on the same general  issues (analyses posted in chronological order):

Looking every bit the hasty exit Target Canada sped up its exit as quickly as possible, leaving unpaid suppliers, miffed landlords, and an angry public in its wake:

Noticing the human toll of the exit Target employed 17,600 workers in Canada and a few hundred more in its headquarters in the US. In addition, several suppliers relied on Target for sizeable percentages of their businesses. Some reporters explored this human toll to the loss:

Becoming a messy exit, too Some of the most serious long-term problems arising from the Target exit appeared a few months after the last store closed. A number of the problems arose from difficulties in re-leasing the former stores, most of which were slow to find new tenants (and are still unoccupied); others arose from unpaid creditors.

Leaving some lasting lessons
Target is recovering As embarrassing as the Canadian exit might have been and as angry as it left Canadians, it also left Target free to focus on fixing its larger problem: its lackluster American operations that were still reeling from the massive data breach in 2013 and a multi-year sidetrip into groceries that resulted in “dulling” the rest of the store and its merchandise.

And the inside story starts to emerge About a year after announcing closing: January 21, 2016 The Last Days of Target, which provides an insider’s story of how Target veered so off-track in Canada, starting with an almost impulsive purchase of Zellers’ leases which, in turn forced an accelerated launch in Canada as well as an ill-advised and ultimately business-ruining choices about inventory and point-of-sale technology and, for good measure, skimping on training. Its otherwise engaged and committee workforce didn’t stand a chance.

 

Yahrzteit for Target Canada (Part 2 of 2): The Long-Term Impact

20 Apr

April 12 marked the 1-year anniversary of the closing of Target stores in Canada. In the Jewish tradition, we mark the anniversary of a passing by observing yahrzteit, or remembering.

And in a pair of essays, I reflect on Target Canada. In Part One I reflected my long-term relationship with Target.

In Part Two, I take a step back. Although Target might have only lasted about 2 years  in Canada (some stores as few as 6 months), because of the size and scale of the operation, it will continue to affect  Canadian retail for the foreseeable future.   In this essay, I identify some of the long-term impacts and lessons about the Target fiasco in the Far North.

  1. Target actually had some better brands of merchandise in Canada than in the US. For example, in its housewares department, Target Canada carried the Joseph Joseph line of high fashion kitchen accessories. Target USA does not carry this line; JC Penney had it the last time I checked (a few months ago). Joseph Joseph is also carried by the Bay in Canada and Macys in the USA—“next step up” stores.

But I’m not sure anyone noticed and I don’t remember Target making much of an effort to promote this.

And Target should have.

Target carries the Kitchen Aid line in its USA stores but Canadian Tire seems to have an exclusive on that line in Canada, meaning that Target couldn’t carry all of the merchandise in Canada that it carries in the USA because of existing agreements between the same suppliers and other stores. (I conjecture this because I don’t see it elsewhere and Target didn’t carry it.)

Even before it opened, Target said it would have some unique products in Canada that it didn’t sell in the US. In the case of housewares, Target “traded up” for some better merchandise but never really announced it. They should have promoted Target Canada exclusives in store and in its advertising and defined exclusive as either not available in Target USA or only available at Target.

  1. Target got help screwing up some of its Canadian merchandising. Although Target admittedly has primary blame for its failure in Canada, it actually had help screwing up a number of its departments. As I noted in the previous post  (and others have noted, too), Target had a lousy and overpriced merchandise mix—especially in groceries and health and beauty- pharmacy. But in many parts of the country, Target relied on a major local supplier to help with those. Groceries were supplied by Sobey’s and, at least in Quebec, pharmacy was supplied by Brunet (part of the Metro group).

I only know about these from what I read in the paper and saw in the stores, but as I understand the situation, they were supposed to provide a Canadian imprint on these departments. The problem is, they put a Sobey’s or Brunet imprint on these departments, someone forgot that these are Target departments.

It appears that no comparison was made with the merchandise mix at Target US and Target Canada, something that Target should have overseen and required of its suppliers. Furthermore, it appears that no effort was made to coordinate store brands between the two countries; it appears that Sobey’s and Brunet store brand products was merely packaged in Target store brand packaging. So what appeared to be similar or identical products to Target USA on the outside seemed like substantially different products on the inside.

  1. Target might not have lasted, but mall upgrades made to accommodate it have. Before Target announced its entry into Canada, many Canadian malls—especially in the Class B and Class C ranges—had delayed necessary renovations. Malls like Galeries d’Anjou in Montreal and Bayshore Centre in Ottawa appeared stuck in the 1990s, both in terms of appearance and lackluster store mix.

Expecting greater foot traffic from Target, however, these malls finally entered the second decade of the new millennium. They remodeled their interiors, updating color schemes, furnishings, and decorative elements. They reworked their store mixes. The updated malls appeared more fashion-forward and reflective of the times.

Want more details? See my recent reviews of Galeries d’Anjou, Bayshore Centre, and Place Vertu—B and C malls that remodeled around the time that Target arrived.

  1. Target might not have lasted but upgrades to its competitors leave them in stronger positions long-term. Target thoughtfully gave Canadian retailers two years’ warning of its arrival and the retailers used that time to significantly up their game. And most major retailers did, with Canadian consumers benefitting long-term, even if Target didn’t last. Consider these long-lasting improvements to some iconic Canadian retailers:
  • Canadian Tire. Strengthened its coverage of the basics and customer service, and re-emphasized its place in Canadian communities to maintain its place as the go-to-store for anything basic in the household, the place that Target tried—and ultimately failed—to supplant. Instead, Canadian Tire seems to have strengthened its role as the go-to store for anything basic in the household.
  • Hudson’s Bay: Transitioned from a ho-hum four-century-old operation to one that looks relevant and new. (Of course, the $1.2 billion it received from selling its Zellers leases to Target helped.) It emphasized higher end and quality fashion and home furnishings to distinguish it from the cheap chic expected from Target.
  • Loblaws: Strengthened the design appeal of its housewares (looking chicer than Target’s while offering similarly low prices) and launched the Joe Fresh clothing line, which challenges Target’s on price and style.

In a bit of tit-for-tat, Loblaws tried to strike back by launching Joe Fresh in the USA. As Target failed in Canada, so Joe Fresh seems to have quickly gone stale in the US: its relationship with JC Penney cut short and its Fifth Avenue flagship in New York quickly closed.

  • Metro: The central and eastern Canada grocer continued to focus on groceries, but upscaled the experience. It brought all of its stores under the Metro brand (previously limited to Quebec) and reworked its logo Metro also expanded its prepared foods, strengthened its store brand, and launched an American-style grocery store loyalty program (Metro et moi / Metro and me).
  • Sears Canada: Although on a self-inflicted death spiral (mostly because its owner, Eddie Lampert, seems to only care about its real estate and can’t seem to hire a merchant willing to lead the store longer than a year), Sears made some nominal moves to counter Target, including a couple of store remodels in malls where Target would also locate (like Galeries d’Anjou in Montreal).

But Sears most interesting moves came after the store closed, when it offered jobs to Target employees. Admittedly, that was a head scratcher, as Sears has been laying off employees with increasing regularity. But in the end, Sears is still here and Target isn’t.

  • Walmart: Already having had upped its design game for US stores to compete against Target’s admittedly diminished housewares (which suffering from the departure of major designers like Michael Graves), Walmart decided to primarily compete with Target in the grocery department, expanding many of its existing Walmart (which have a small grocery section) to Walmart Supercentres (which have full-line grocery stores in addition to all of the other departments).
  1. Target might not have lasted, but some of its empty storefronts will serve as long-term reminders of the failure. One of the long-term problems of Target leaving is that it also leaves lots of empty space: about 2 to 3% of all retail space in Canada. About a third of its leases were picked up within 9 months—some by Walmart, some by Lowe’s, some by a gym—but the majority are vacant and are likely to remain that way.

That’s because the demand for 120,000 square foot stores is limited. A few malls are rebuilding the space so they can lease smaller stores.

But in a climate whose medium-term outlook for the next few years is flat, absorbing all of that still-vacant space remains a challenge.

So shadows of Target signs remain on walls in and out of malls that look like Target bullesyes but aren’t any more.

And nothing looks more creepy than a big vacant store.

  1. Target needs to revisit its playbook for entering a market, especially if it tries again to enter international markets with bricks-and-mortar stores. Target likes to enter new markets by making a splash and launch a number of stores all at once.

According to the in-depth report on the last days of Target Canada in Canadian Business, Target felt compelled to open quickly in Canada because they had acquired so many leases and could not afford to pay rent on so much vacant real estate for an extended period of time.   

This certainly sounds plausible.

But it overlooks Target’s history: how Target entered new markets in the US. It reads just like the playbook for Target Canada.  When possible, Target would buy the real estate of a distressed competitor, such as Richway in Atlanta and Ames in Boston. If necessary (as it was in Atlanta), Target waited until after the store liquidated its merchandise and formally laid off its staff, before bringing in the construction crews and hiring teams to open a new Target.

That’s what happened with Target’s purchase of Zellers leases.

The massive construction-then-massive-launch approach might work in the US, where communities are increasingly similar in their day-to-day needs, and, except for some local variations, the company would still retain its basic supplier relationships, operating logistics, and HR practices (with minor adjustments for local laws and customs).

But even though the population of Canada is about the same size of California (or about 5 Target market areas), it’s a different country and Target could have considered an entirely different playbook.

Rather than buying the leases, emptying the stores, laying off all of the talent, and investing in reconstruction, Target could have purchased Zellers’ outright, taken advantage of its expertise, supplier relationships, ongoing operations,  and, significantly, functioning inventory control system, then made adjustments as it learned the market and slowly but surely convert the Zellers stores to the Target nameplate, learning from the successful lessons of Walmart’s successful entry into Canada at Woolco stores.

  1. Although Targets policies are written to value human resources, its choices in Canada suggest that a bridge still exists between what’s written on paper and what’s practiced in the business.  One reason that Target has chosen to wait to occupy a former retailers’ space rather than merely take over its business as described above is that Target is a non-union company and most of the stores it has replaced had unionized staffs. Without going into the pro- or anti-union issue, which is beyond the scope of this discussion, practical considerations suggest that addressing broader business needs might necessitate rethinking this employment practice.

In this particular situation, Zellers was a functioning business and Target would have rebuild all of that from scratch.

But Target also ignored the practical limitations of the real world when choosing to do so, because the company made three other choices that rely on effectively managing human capital dimensions and, in both cases, made disastrous choices.

The first two choices are related: planning to open 133 stores across Canada within three years and launching a two significant pieces of technology–an inventory control system and a point-of-sale system–both of which touch on every part of the organization. Both timetables were unrealistic, but especially the inventory control system, on which the entire operation of Target depended.

Anyone with passing knowledge of enterprise systems knows that such a comprehensive system cannot be launched in two years, no matter how smart the people working on the team or how experienced the systems integrator (Accenture in this case.)  Canadian Business has an amazing post-mortem of the situation. Both systems probably could have been successful if management had been realistic about the schedules for systems planning, installation, customization, and implementation. And they could have been realistic, because a wide body of experience with enterprise systems in general, and inventory and point of sales systems, in particular is available. But management chose to ignore that  almost all of that history suggests that a successful implementation requires three to five years.In other words, they ignored one of the most basic principles of human performance: the best predictor of future performance is past performance.

The third choice Target made was to shortchange training.  I had been aware of that problem; I had spoken informally with certified trainers whom Target lured from other Canadian retailers. But the trainers I spoke to were hired on contract and told me that, as soon as initial training was complete, Target dismissed them. Ironically, these trainers provided training on their systems.

That might not have been as serious of a problem in Target USA, the company not only has functioning inventory control and point-of-sale systems, but also has experienced workers who can provide the development needed to bridge the gap between classroom training and the job.

But all of Target Canada’s employees were new and, as happens in situations like these,  relied on incidental, on-the-job learning rather than close supervision and mentorship, some of which was not feasible because of the general inexperience of the Target Canada staff, but some of that supervision and mentorship not feasible because the company chose to provide less rather than more training, when learners could be observed performing successfully before they return to the workplace.

And some of the informal lessons learned turned out to be how to game the system. In doing so,  staff exacerbated an already public and humiliating problem with inventory. As reported in Canadian Business: 

Business analysts (who were young and fresh out of school, remember) were judged based on the percentage of their products that were in stock at any given time, and a low percentage would result in a phone call from a vice-president demanding an explanation. But by flipping the auto-replenishment switch off, the system wouldn’t report an item as out of stock, so the analyst’s numbers would look good on paper. “They figured out how to game the system,” says a former employee. “They didn’t want to get in trouble and they didn’t really understand the implications.”

Although presented in the magazine as a technology issue, the situation sounds like a classic human resources management and development problem.

By all accounts, despite these problems, Target had a committed and engaged workforce according to the Canadian Business report. But a committed and engaged workforce can only go so far when the system sets that workforce up for failure.

  1. Bankruptcy is ugly. It humbles even the great. In bankruptcy, Target violated its own century-old values as a corporation and seriously tarnished its image in the Canadian community. It wrote checks to community organizations just before the bankruptcy that bounced when the community organizations tried to cash the checks within days of the bankruptcy. It laid off nearly 18,000 of its own workers, and cost thousands more their jobs. It ruined suppliers. It raised questions about its own ethics by the choice of bankruptcy statute to use in its filing. The manner in which it tried to get out of its leases further tarnished its reputation and the company found itself in protracted court proceedings over its bankruptcy plan.

In other words, Target lost more than billions of dollars in this failure; it lost a part of its soul, even if most of that news was only covered in Canada and received far less coverage in the USA.

  1. Target USA does seem to be recovering. Although the stated reason for departing Canada is that the company saw no path to profitability before 2021, if even then, part of the reason has to be that its US stores needed primary attention. Although everyone talks about how lousy the Canadian stores were, the USA stores weren’t so wonderful. Sales were flat. The chic had departed and, even in harsher times, cheap alone wasn’t attracting customers. And with a data breach of massive proportions, the company lost the trust of its customers, too.

Around the time of the Canadian departure, Target executives announced efforts to revitalize the product line and shopping experience. The proof would have to show itself on the showroom floor.

And it is starting to. As noted in Part One, the housewares section has been reimagined and the displays are impressive. I have seen pictures of a reimagined grocery section, which is supposed to have a strengthened focus on healthier foods. If those pictures of the prototypes eventually appear in the grocery department, that department, too, should show new signs of life.

In other words, closing the Canadian stores to concentrate on the American stores was not only a good business decision, it also appears to be one bearing fruit for Target. (That some post-Canada earnings reports have shown signs of life further supports that decision.)

  1. Target does not seem to have learned all of its lessons about international retailing. Although Target got many things wrong when it tried to enter Canada, it did recognize that, at the least, it needed to be culturally sensitive to shoppers in Quebec and made a strident effort to understand its culture. The problem was, Target didn’t understand the local shopping habits and just assumed people would  change them, just because Target is Target. Target was wrong.

Similarly, although Target acknowledges that it failed in Canada, it seems to have ignored anything that could have been learned from the experience when the store opened an international website. The site allows visitors to shop at Target.com and ship to countries outside the USA. But this international website offers the same value proposition as its Canadian stores—fewer products available at much worse prices.

On the one hand, I doubt many Canadians will shop there.

On the other hand, visiting the site and seeing the crappy selection and lousier prices gives us a nice chuckle.

Perhaps that was the point. (Probably not, but just in case…)

 

Yahrtzeit for Target Canada (Part 1 of 2): My Relationship with Target

12 Apr

Today marks the 1-year anniversary of the closing of Target stores in Canada. In the Jewish tradition, we mark the anniversary of a passing by observing yahrzteit, or remembering.

And in a pair of essays, I reflect on Target Canada.

Most analyses of the fiasco tend to repeat the same points over and over again: Target overreached. Target couldn’t get its product mix right. Even when they did, they couldn’t get the stock levels and prices right.

So, in this reflection, I’d like to do something different. In the first part, I explain what Target means to me personally. In the second part, I talk about some of the longer-term effects of Target’s entrance and exit, about which few people have focused.

Starting My Long-Term Relationship with Target

My first contact with Target was the night of my fraternity initiation at a university in Pittsburgh. I can’t reveal the details of the secret ceremony–partly because I swore an oath of secrecy but mostly because they were actually short of memorable–but I can say that the ceremony involved waiting.

Endless waiting…. what seemed like an eternity.

I finally got so bored that I started reading magazines lying around the room.

One–a business magazine (I don’t remember which one)–profiles Dayton-Hudson, family-owned department store chain in Minnesota that managed stay independent when all of the other American chains had been acquired by the likes of Federated, Allied, May, and similar conglomerates. The profile noted that one of the strategies used by  Dayton-Hudson to remain independent was launching it own discount chain called Target.

Dayton’s (the department store) and Target (the discount department store) both sounded like they had a bit of an edge that was already being lost in the department and discount store business in the Mid-Atlantic, which was led by drab, poor-service department stores like May-owned Kaufmann’s and the Hecht Company.

I wanted to check out these stores, but they were located in the Upper Midwest and the western boundary of my world was Pittsburgh.

The Early Years

For reasons unrelated to Dayton’s or Target, I ended up moving to Rochester, Minnesota three years later. So I sought out the two stores. Dayton’s had a beautiful department store in Rochester that still had many of the departments that other department stores back east had dropped, like notions. I was so intent on buying something at Dayton’s that I bought a mattress for my first home there on a one-day sale, even bought I hadn’t leased an apartment yet.

Unfortunately, Target didn’t have an outlet in Rochester yet (as disappointing to me as it was to the entire population of Rochester. So the day before I started my job, I drove to Minneapolis with Target at the top of the list of places to visit.

I was entranced: it was everything K-Mart wasn’t: great prices, great style, a pleasant place to shop, and no annoying announcements for blue light specials. (I probably shouldn’t put it that way; I had a friend in Rochester who used to make those announcements.)

Although I had student loans, just bought a car, leased an apartment to go with my mattress, and was still paying off an expensive watch I gave myself as a graduation gift (which a friend encouraged me to buy because I had a Visa card), I couldn’t help myself and bought $US 69 worth of stuff (in 2016 currency, that’s $US 211 today). I still keep a $US 3.99 wicker basket and $US 10 oriental rug I bought that day as momentos of the visit.

That trip began a monthly routine of visiting the Twin Cities, and no trip was complete without a Target run.  And no matter how small my shopping list, I always spent a minimum of $50 per visit, usually more. But I charged it to my Dayton’s credit card, which also worked at Target.

Within a few years, Target finally opened in Rochester and the city observed an unofficial holiday in honour of the occasion. I could (and did) visit more frequently: the store was literally located right across the street to my office.

My First Move to a Target Desert

After a few more years, I accepted a job transfer to Atlanta. The choice wasn’t easy; it meant giving up Target as Atlanta had no Targets at the time. I tried to make do with Richway—the discount division of famed local department store Rich’s. I think Rich’s attempted to copy Dayton’s strategy with Target. But Richly was no Target. It wasn’t even close. Like K-Mart, Richly was discount in every way imaginable. Apparently Atlantans didn’t love Richway all that much either and, when its parent company went into bankruptcy, Federated dumped Richway to the curb.

Target bought out all of the Richway leases, but not the store. After a going-out-of-business sale, Target moved in with the construction crews, rebuilt all of the stores as Targets, and opened a slew of them on a single day. Of course, I was there for the opening and renewed my special relationship.

Because I was an experienced Target shopper, I introduced all of my Atlanta friends to the store, who quickly took to the store.  My neighbours and I would occasionally make collective runs to Target.

In fact, introducing people to Target became an important part of my life over the next several years.Target opened in Baltimore, my home town, in the early 1990s. Unlike in Atlanta, Target had no chain of stores whose leases it could buy, so Target entered the market one store at a time. Within a few years, it became part of the local landscape. One day, my niece showed me something she bought. “You’ll be so proud of me, Uncle Saul,” she said.

“Did you buy it at Target?”

“Better. I bought it at Target on sale.”

A Target for Every Mood

I moved back to Minnesota in the late 1990s, this time to Minneapolis, the world headquarters of Target and where one never has to drive more than 15 minutes without encountering a Target. I visited as many as I could and found that, even though they share merchandise and a common look, each Target also had a personality. Some were Greatlands, with an expanded selection of merchandise.  Some were Super Target (just being tested as the time), and some were just plain old fashioned Targets. I shopped at enough different Targets that I noticed different Targets suited different moods of mine: my whimsical Target, my depression Target, my happy Target, and so on. It’s as if Target were a religion.

 

Target as Class Assignments

While in the Twin Cities, I made a long-term career change and became a professor. My first teaching position was at a university in St. Paul.  One of my students was a second-generation Target employee and, knowing of my interest in Target (because I found a way to work it into lectures), made sure that every one of her class projects was about the store.

About that time, Target launched its designer phase with its partnership with Michael Graves. Who knew such beautiful pieces (which ultimately proved impractical—his phone literally hurt my ear), could be sold at such ridiculously low prices? (I also owned the $350 Alessi tea kettle.)

But after being successfully recruited to a tenure track job meant I would be moving to Boston, a mecca for higher education but a Target desert. In fact, when I interviewed for the job, Target had no stores in the Boston area.

Apparently the retail gods knew Saul needs Target and, as I was preparing to move to Boston, Target bought the leases to several stores (I think they were once Ames) and planned a grand entrance into the market much like the one in Atlanta. Target open its first stores the weekend after I arrived to town (I could say that we coordinated schedules but that wouldn’t be true).

Once again, I was introducing people to Target. I even arranged a class field trip to Target to point out some of the design features of the store. Too bad the job didn’t work out as the class assignment (which taught communications students about the intricacies of designing a three-dimensional experience).

Another Target Desert

So I ended up moving to Montreal, which had Zellers. I sensed that Zellers had some sort of relationship with Target—they both used the same displays for greeting cards—but Zellers lacked the pizazz of Target. (It actually lacked any pizazz but it reminded me a lot of stores that had long left the USA, like Woolworth’s and McCrory’s).  Rumors frequently appeared in the news suggesting that Zellers would become Target but they did not become fact until 2011.

A Move Towards Complacency

By that time, though, Target USA had lost some of its pizazz. Its once-exclusive designers left for greener shelves: Michael Graves for JC Penney, Isaac Mizrahi for Claiborne, Philippe Starke to return to his regular business and designing condos in Montreal’s Griffintown. Target focused, instead, on a new category: groceries. But, other than great deals on  Chobani yogurt, the selection was ho-hum, the same ho-hum that seemed to become the norm throughout the store (save a few flash deals like the Lilly Pulitzer line in which the merchandise literally lasts just an hour or its pop-up like “The Shops,” which usually ran out of the good stuff quickly). Not only was Target losing the chic, it wasn’t all that cheap, either.  Walmart’s prices were often the same or a bit better (at last 2 cents, because Target ends its prices with $.99 and Walmart with $.97) and much of the merchandise overlapped except clothing.

Target’s increasing conventionality mirrored a similar trend in Dayton Hudson’s namesake department stores. By my second stint in Minnesota, Daytons’ lost enough of its cache with me that it became my only-if-they’re-having-a-decent-sale store. I remained a customer of Macy’s, which became my go-to department store during my years in Atlanta.

A couple of years after my second departure, Dayton-Hudson Corporation renamed itself Target Corporation.  Soon after, it dropped its iconic Dayton’s nameplate in favor of that of sister store, Marshall Fields. Analysts felt that the company was positioning the department stores for a sale. Indeed they were: The May Company bought Marshall Fields in 2004. A year later, May merged with Macy’s.

The sale left Target with just one store–Target–and flush with cash from the sale.

Onto Canada

This post-cool but cash-rich Target whose US sales had flattened despite an economy that would foster growth in a discount department store that came to Canada in 2013.

And they followed the same playbook that successfully worked in Atlanta and Boston: buy out the leases of a bunch of stores. Kick them out and fire all the employees. Rebuild the stores as Targets and hope for a profit from Day 1.

To be honest, I still maintained my loyalty to Target but mostly because we had transitioned from novel explorations to a comfortable, predictable relationship. The wide aisles at Target were easier to traverse than the crowded ones at Walmart. Target didn’t depress me the way that K-mart did. But I can’t say the merchandise excited me any more (except, perhaps, the Chobani yogurt).

But I was definitely excited about the entrance of Target to Canada. My old store was joining me in my new country. My Canadian friends and co-workers knew about my relationship to Target. But some weren’t all that enthusiastic about Target’s arrival in Canada. Some missed Zellers (perhaps misplaced sentimentality). Others didn’t want another American retailer to displace yet another Canadian retailer. They bashed Target in front of me, sometimes with pride. I told them that Target is sort of my other religion and I was going to report them to HR for religious persecution. It didn’t deter the comments.

A Crisis of Faith

And to be honest, I couldn’t argue with them that Target Canada sucked. If Target was my other religion, Target Canada fostered a crisis of faith. Although some aspects of the store were fine, most were not: starting with the shade of red chosen for Target. It was Zellers red, which is a bit darker than Target red. In other words, in trying to invoke Zellers, they failed to be Target.

The clothing selection seemed relatively similar but the housewares, pharmacy and health and beauty, and grocery sections were nothing like Target. The products significantly differed between those in the American stores and the ones in Canada. Heck, in Quebec, the pharmacies didn’t exist for half the lives of these stores; they didn’t open until 6 or 7 months after the rest of the store. Even the store brand products—Up and Up and Archer Farms—differed. They offered different products clearly manufactured by different suppliers and at different prices.

In those few instances were products matched, prices didn’t. And that made no sense at the time because the dollars were close to par. Starbuck’s Coffee: $11.99 in US stores, $14.99 in Canadian stores.

So, as much as my heart didn’t want to believe the problems with Target reported in the press and by my friends and co-workers, my mind couldn’t ignore them. And as much as my heart couldn’t believe the predictions that Target would pack up and return to the US when they first started to appear in the summer of 2014, the announcement in early 2015 that Target indeed planned to close up shop wasn’t totally shocking.

It hurt.

But what hurt more was the way that Target left Canada.

Dayton-Hudson, the company that launched Target, was a great community citizen. It offered good jobs, it supported a number of community causes (10% of earnings), and it paid its taxes. In fact, Dayton Hudson was so beloved in Minnesota, that when JC Penney tried to buy it in 1987, the governor called an emergency meeting of the state legislature to prevent the sale.

So when news surfaced within a week of Target Canada’s closing that one of the checks it wrote to a community organization bounced, I was disappointed. This isn’t the Dayton Hudson Corporation that I knew.

Although it was great that Target Canada ensured salaries of its staff for several months, it was still going to unleash 18,000 workers into softening job market. Although Target has a responsibility to its American shareholders, doesn’t it also have a responsibility to its workers and the Canadian communities that welcomed it? What about the Canadian suppliers who were also becoming dependent on Target?

As the months wore on, and questions arose about the appropriateness of the particular bankruptcy provision under which it filed, about Target’s leaving many vendors with unpaid bills, and about Target being difficult about releasing its store leases. In other words, not only had Target massively disappointed as a store, it also disappointed as a corporate citizen. Admittedly, the average American is unaware of Target’s tacky exit from Canada. But most most industry insiders and Canadians are.

More personally, I am aware. And I am disappointed.

And now?

Because I visit the US frequently, I still have opportunities to shop at Target.

I’ll admit it. I still do. I can’t stay away. If it’s any consolation, a part of me feels guilty about it.

But more of me wants to see Target USA recover. In addition to its debacle in Canada, the company suffered a huge data breach (which I didn’t discuss here) as well as years of increasingly dull merchandising.

On my last visit to Target USA, I saw the first signs of life in almost a decade. The housewares department has been re-designed and the display is the most imaginative thing I’ve seen in that store since the launch of the Michael Graves Collection. If the current president of Target risked long-term damage to the corporation by extricating itself from a poorly executed launch into Canada, at least the reason for doing so—to revitalize the US stores—seems to be sincere. And as hurt as I am about the way that Target left Canada, I was heartened to see its new housewares display.

I have also seen photos of a reimagined grocery section and that, too, looks encouraging.

I guess like any relationship, mine with Target had its good times and bad times. We’ve had more good times than bad, and the bad really disappointed me.  But I guess I’m in it for the long-haul with Target, Canadian misadventures and all.

I’m more cautious. I’m less impressed. I spend less. But I still visit. And I still buy.

Place Vertu

16 Mar

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Quick Review

In most cities, Place Vertu would probably be built as a power mall, an outdoor strip mall with several big box stores. In fact, the mall across the street is a power mal. But perhaps because of its Montreal location (land of cold, snowy winters—who wants to freeze and slip on ice going from store to store?) or because of sits at the edge of a major planned community (Bois Franc), the owners developed it as an indoor mall.

The mall might have had aspirations of becoming a regional mall at first. Early tenants included K-Mart (which left Canada before I moved here), and Dominion (a grocery chain long since gone from the Canadian grocery scene), the Bay (now Hudson’s Bay), and Sears. The Bay left years ago. Although Sears technically occupies its location, it puts less effort into stocking and maintaining the store than I put into cleaning my office (which is close to none). In fact, the Sears at Place Vertu is so depressing that—dilapidated fixtures holding C-grade merchandise that’s strewn all over the place—that it appears to be the first 3-D advertisement for an anti-depressant.

Furthermore, invisible from the highway and away from any “natural” intersections of major streets, the mall has limited ability to attract drive-by and walk-in customers. So it needs to position itself as a destination for the immediate community.

Remodeled in the past several years, the landlords have effectively positioned Place Vertu as a neighborhood mall. A family can find nearly all of its major necessities at this mall. The remodeling makes the mall a pleasant place to make those purchases and run into a neighbor or two in the process.

Around the time of the renovation, Zellers (later Target) moved into the former Bay location. The empty Target location is an auto showroom right now.

The former Zellers location became a Canadian Tire.

The landlord enticed specialty grocer Adonis to the mall. Adonis specializes in Middle Eastern food. Stay away from the baked goods; Adonis charges for its sumptuous, home-made baklavas by weight; and you’ll pay for that weight in more than one way.

Other major retailers include Winners, Uniprix, Sports Experts, and Dollarama. Most of the retailers offer reasonably priced merchandise that the average working family can afford.

An unusually large food court serves as a neighborhood gathering space and a couple of restaurants (like East Side Marios) provide a more formal meeting place.

The floor plan is a bit difficult to traverse as some corridors do not connect to others. For example, the wing with Target and Winners is not easily accessible to the wings containing Canadian Tire and Adonis.

But that’s a small complaint. Because it has a clear sense of its identity, Place Vertu does what it’s supposed to do well and does not annoy visitors with pretensions to more. No wonder it’s celebrating its 40th birthday.

Mall at a Glance

Anchors: Adonis (specialty supermarket), Canadian Tire, Sears, Winners.

National chains: 5eme Avenue, Aldo,Ardene, Bentley,Brown’s Outlet, Centre du Rasoir, Ernest, Hallmark, Payless, SAQ (Quebec provincial liquor store), The Source, Sports Experts, Uniprix.

The mall also has a great selection of local stores, unusual for most malls.

Variety of merchandise: Fashion: Fair. Household: Good to Very Good. Electronics: Limited. Food: Excellent.

Prices from low to middle range.

Special notes: This is a neighborhood mall, intended for purchases of everyday items.

Food court: Large selection, with particularly strong selections in Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine (serving the local community). Kabab is a particular favorite, probably the best Middle Eastern food court restaurant in the city. Grillades Torino, also in the mall, is a close second.

Wikipedia page:

English: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Place_Vertu

French: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Place_Vertu

Website:

English: http://www.placevertu.com/en/

French: http://www.placevertu.com/

Bayshore Centre

17 Feb

Nepean (suburban Ottawa), Ontario, Canada

Quick Review

My first impression of Bayshore Centre when I visited in 2008 was that once would be enough. The store selection seemed limited: the middle end of the same stores seen in every Canadian mall. The shopping environment seemed drab and dated: decades-old décor. Plus, the challenge of figuring out which ramp to use when exiting Highway 417 west—trumped by figuring out which exit would lead me back to the highway—exceeded the reward for the effort.

In other words, I had no intention of making a return visit.

Several years later, sufficiently bored on a day trip to Ottawa, not in the mood to fight the construction in the Rideau Centre and lacking interest in going to the St. Laurent Centre, Bayshore got a second look.

And Bayshore was ready for me.

In anticipation of an arrival of Target in 2015, which ultimately never happened, the mall completely remodeled and upscaled itself. Décor went from drab and dated to sleek, open, and contemporary. Clear railings with metal accents and bright white flooring gave the mall a feeling of openness.

The fast fashion trio—Forever 21, H&M, and Zara—led a slightly more fashion-forward mix of stores. Among the many new store was an Apple store, a Brown’s shoes, Birk’s jewelers and Tommy Gunn’s, an updated version of the traditional barber shop.

The Bay transformed itself into a Hudson’s Bay and, representative of changes throughout the chain, presented a more enticing mix of merchandise in a more inviting environment.

The mall reworked all of its parking. Because the mall sits on a fully built site in the midst of an older suburb, the mall relies on multi-level ramps for parking. Although this adds a little complexity to finding a space, the benefit is that no space is more than a 5-minute walk to a mall entrance. The mall entrances, too, were remodeled, ensuring shoppers get a great first impression.

Perhaps the greatest magic of the remodeling was the remodeling of the food court. Moved from a cramped area on the third floor of the store with insufficient seating, the food court moved to the end of one wing on the second, where it offers an open dining experience with enough tables for everyone who needs one, a great selection of dining options, and a huge picture window that brings in plenty of light. The new food court also features livery service—that is, the use of reusable china plates, glasses, and real silverware rather than disposable plastic. One of my favorite features of the new food court is a series of long tables in the center with higher chairs, and a large number of outlets, so if one wants to linger in the mall and work a bit, one can. Free internet makes working in the mall all the more convenient.

Although the mall remodeled for a Target that never opened (the Target was one of the last one scheduled to open when the company pulled the plug on its Canadian operation), a Walmart has filled the space, delaying an opening by a bout a year.

Perhaps the only complaint about the renovation is the still-confusing entrance and exit to the mall (at least, they’re still confusing to me). That’s an infrastructure issue that requires an investment by the city and beyond the scope of work that the mall could include in its renovation.

And it’s not a biggie. The latest incarnation of Bayshore Centre is now on our go-to mall list for Ottawa.

Mall at a Glance

Anchors: Hudson’s Bay, Walmart.

National chains: Aeropostale, Aldo, American Eagle, Apple, Aritizia Banana Republic, Ben Moss, Body Shop, Bombay, Cole’s bookstore, Danier, Desiqual, Ecco, Eddie Bauer, Forever 21, Gap, Gateway News, H&M, HMV, Roots, Miss Tiggly Wiggly’s, Winners

Variety of merchandise: Very good. Strongest in fashion and accessories, with good coverage in jewelry, computer-based electronics (computers, mobile phones, tablets and accessories), soft home goods, and culture entertainment (broadly defined to include books, music, and toys).

Prices are middle to upper-middle range.

Special notes: Carefully watch signage when exiting Highway 417 west to enter the mall (one lane is a dedicated entrance to the mall).

Also carefully watch signage when exiting the mall.

Food court: A big, spacious, sunny environment with nice touches of style—real china, glasses, and silverware, and comfort—plenty of tables, and plenty of electrical outlets for recharging your batteries (literally). Choices include Cultures (healthy), Grillades Torino (Mediterranean, one of their first places outside Quebec), Jimmy the Greek, KFC, Shanghai 360, and Tim Horton’s (which always seens to have the longest line). Snack on a Cinnabon, cool off with a Pinkberry yogurt, or sip a Starbuck’s elsewhere in the mall. For table-service dining, try long-time mall tenant, Moxies.

Wikipedia page (English only): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayshore_Shopping_Centre

Website: English: https://www.bayshoreshoppingcentre.com/en/

French: https://www.bayshoreshoppingcentre.com/fr/

Montreal Premium Outlets

20 Jan

Mirabel (exurban Montreal), Quebec, Canada

Quick Review

I love Premium Outlets but, until very recently, had to visit the US if I wanted to shop there.

The Woodbury Commons Premium Outlets outside of New York City are legendary throughout the Northeast (in fact, no Montrealer’s roadtrip to the US is complete without a visit), but I’ve grown fond of other Premium sites, like Desert Hills outside of Palm Springs, North Georgia outside of Atlanta, Orlando Premium Outlets (the saving grace of the nightmare that is International Drive),Wrentham Premium Outlets south of Boston and the new (and sales tax free) Merrimack Premium Outlets north of Boston.

Nearly all Premium Outlets follow the same successful template: an excellent selection of stores, usually focusing on well-known fashion retailers but also selections of leather and household goods housed in pleasant, wood-clad open air settings that offer plenty of free parking. Visitors can receive a coupon book with additional savings. The only significant gripe I have with most Premium Outlets is their lack of any place to sit and relax for a while and, except for Starbuck’s at Woodbury, the inability to find a decent cup of coffee in any of these malls.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that US-based Simon Malls (owner of Premium Malls) teamed with Canadian shopping mall developer SmartCentres to bring the Premium concept to Canada with Toronto Premium Outlets. But I was downright shocked to hear that the second Premium location in Canada would be Montreal. Yes–we’re the second largest city in Canada so getting the second Premium Outlet makes sense demographically. But Quebec is a French-language province with laws requiring that all signage and operations be conducted in French. The province also has somewhat more restrictive operating hours than other North American locations—malls must close at 5 on weekends, for example—so many US-based operations elect to either delay an entry into the market or avoid it altogether.

To this casual consumer, the result seems to reflect a true partnership. Simon seems to have brought its Premium Outlet regulars to Montreal: stores that seem to locate in every Premium location, like Ralph Lauren, Osh Kosh B’Gosh, Banana Republic, Samsonite, Clark’s Shoes, and Sunglass Hut (to name a few). The wood clad buildings and open air arcades give the first francophone Premium Outlet the same look as its Anglophone cousins, even if the feel is decidedly French.

SmartCentres seems to have brought a local sensitivity to the mall. It snagged several leading Canadian retailers, including Brown’s Shoes, Tristan, Les Aisles de la Mode (which I could have sworn had closed for good in bankruptcy more than once), and Hudson’s Bay, which opened an outlet only to announce a year later that it was switching that outlet to the better known Saks Off Fifth nameplate. (The decision to locate an HBC outlet preceded the company’s purchase of Saks Fifth Avenue..)

While most US-based Premium Outlets feature tiny 3-operation food courts with about the same number of tables (and I’m not exaggerating all that much) and no outlets for computers, perhaps because of our long, cold winters or perhaps because someone has followed trends in Canadian food courts, the Montreal Premium Outlets has a huge food court building. It has 5 food choices on one side, and some gourmet food discounters dispersed throughout, scores of tables, free Internet, and lots of outlets for recharging phones, tablets, and computers: all in an Adirondack-inspired design with oversized gas fireplaces adding to the coziness of the site.

With Presse Café, the mall also offers something most other Premium Outlets lack—and that is a “must” for Montrealers: a decent cup of coffee. (For those unfamiliar with it, Presse Café is a local coffee chain.)

Nearby, a new strip mall has sprung up with an SAQ Depot (for those unfamiliar with it, SAQ is the provincial liquor store); Dairy Queen, RBC and Banque Scotia, and Walmart Super Centre.

Of course, as I do with all Premium Outlets, I wonder how “real” the bargains really are. Some of the stalwarts, like Banana Republic, are “factory stores,” meaning they sell merchandise specifically made for the outlet and never meant for the “real” Banana Republics. Others only locate in outlet malls, meaning they have no other means of selling. And of course, there’s the practice associated with my favorite disclaimer of all time: “Price marked might not have resulted in actual sales” which basically translates to: “We never sell this item at the suggested retail price. Ever.”

But Montreal is also a center for the fashion business and many large companies maintain operations in the city, meaning they might have extra stock to sell. And I have seen some truly bona fide bargains, especially at the HBC outlet: items from the retail stores that are truly discounted from their original in-store prices—and clearance prices. (I know; a $ sign in front of a number acts as a mnemonic for me).

In other words, go. At the least, you’ll get out into the almost country (Mirabel is 30 minutes north of Montreal) and have a pleasant time. At the most, you might get a great bargain.

 

Mall at a Glance

Anchors: HBC, Ralph Lauren.

National chains: The two echos—Ecco and Ecko—as well as Aldo, Browns, American Eagle, Amnesia Banana Republic Factory Store, Bench, Bath and Body Works, Calvin Klein, Carter’s / Osh Kosh, Clark’s / Bostonian, Danier Leather, Desiqual, Garage, Gucci, Hugo Boss, Jack Jones, Michael Kors, Point Zero, Rudsak, Samsonite, Sunglass Hut, and Under Armour.   The Gucci and Under Armour outlets are their only stand-alone stores in the area right now.

Variety of merchandise: Fashion and accessories: outstanding. Gift food (that is, food other than staples needed for a meal): good. Other categories: extremely limited.

Prices are middle- to upper-middle range.

Special notes:

  • Whether coming from the north or south, be prepared for traffic congestion on Autoroute 15—the main route to the Outlets. Northbound from Montreal, traffic is worst during rush hours on weekdays and especially frustrating on Fridays. Southbound, expect delays on weekends—especially Sundays—and ends of long holidays.
  • If you’re not used to Montreal weather, wear a warm coat when shopping in winter and be prepared to suffer humidity during the summer.

Food court: Limited but, given the food court nature of it, surprisingly healthy choice: A&W (hormone free meat), Kung Pao Wok (a local Asian food outlet with yummy choices), Panizza Umi Sushi, Zoukis (Mediterranean) and Presse Café (sandwiches and decent coffee). Plenty of tables for hungry shoppers; tables along the window walls have outlets, as do the single seats. Large gas fire places and a soaring ceiling give the food court an Adirondack ski lodge feeling.

Gift food available at the Lindt and David’s Tea outlets; Laura Secord sells ice cream cones.

Wikipedia page (English only): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premium_Outlets_Montreal

(Was out of date when I checked at the end of 2015; it said that the mall was under construction for opening on 30 October 2015.)

Website:

English: http://www.premiumoutlets.com/montrealpremiumoutlets

French: http://www.premiumoutlets.com/montrealpremiumoutlets/fr