Toronto Life - The Goods

A compendium of the latest store openings, hottest parties and runway shows and all the buzzy fashion gossip. Sign up for the Style newsletter for weekly updates



Topshop’s coming to Queen Street: in something of a coup, The Bay nabs the fast-fashion retailer

Photograph of existing Topshop location (Image: supplied by The Bay)

We’ve been wondering for months when Topshop would establish its first Canadian flagship store. Well, last night, our questions were answered, as The Bay’s president and CEO Bonnie Brooks announced that Topshop and Topman will be opening within the year at the department store’s Queen Street flagship, marking a second attempt for the U.K. fast-fashion purveyor to break into the Toronto market.

Not only has Bonnie Brooks decided to house the U.K. chain in The Bay itself, she has also managed to secure the franchise rights, initiating plans for Toronto’s first stand-alone Topshop. This all sounds fantastic for The Bay, but what really piqued our interest was this quote from Topman managing director David Shepherd: “We are very excited to have secured our first introduction in the Canadian market with the partnership of The Bay, and look forward to the opening of the first store in Toronto with great anticipation.”

First introduction? That’s news to us—and, likely, to Jonathan and Olivia, who have been carrying Topshop lines since last June. Looks like those initial attempts to break into Toronto have been swept under the rug. It’s probably nothing personal. Just (big) business.

Update: Jonathan and Olivia’s Jackie O’ Brien responds to The Bay’s factual error.

  • apesardevoce

    Annoying that Topshop ignored their partnership with Jonathan and Olivia. Also, I think Topshop and Bonnie are both overestimating the Canadian shopper’s need for extremely overpriced H&M/Forver 21 type quality clothing. Topshop, just like her Halston Heritage obsession, will flop.

  • jm

    Really?? Top Shop was going to forever continue to do business in Canada in two hundred sq. feet at the back of a small retailer on Ossington Avenue?
    Let’s get real here.
    This is going to massively help drive traffic to the Bay, and maybe give some of the other Canadian department stores a much needed reality check.

    Top Shop might not be huge here out of the gates, but they WILL take market share from the likes of H&M, The Gap and Zara- and ultimately succeed.

  • jr

    Wow. Underestimating the Canadian shopper’s need for overpriced H&M/Forever 21 type merchandise? Last time I looked, independent retail in Canada is shrinking rapidly whilst vertical retailers from around the globe continue to grow their businesses across Canada.

    Are we really supposed to feel annoyed that a company, with a presence in over 20 countries, forgot to mention a small retailer?

    Not that I am privy to The Bay’s contracts with it’s vendors, but I’m pretty sure that they don’t own the merchandise in their shop-in-shop’s such as Halston Heritage etc. This is usually a partnership between The Bay and the Vendor. The Vendor is running their own store within The Bay. So if a brand does not sell, The Bay is not footing the bill. So the “flop” inevitably will be on the Vendor’s shoulders. This is how department stores do business.

    Kudos to Bonnie for securing a deal that will hopefully continue to push The Bay towards being a part of Canadian heritage that we can be proud of once again.

  • Kate

    I totally agree with jr.

  • Diane

    Re: JR’s comment.

    You have some interesting insights about Topshop’s partnership with the Bay, however your comments about the owner of Jonathan+Olivia “groveling” and having “to finance the rest of her expensive brands” are entirely presumptious.

    Were you a part of the meetings between the buyer and TOPSHOP? Do you have access to their sales, and financial statements?

    People have nothing better to do than to hate on the success of others. I have shopped at Jonathan+Olivia since they opened and have received nothing but amazing service.

    The fact that Topshop even allowed their brand be represented by this independant boutique speaks volumes about Jonathan+Olivia’s reputation internationally. Topshop has only allowed itself to be represented by the best boutiques in the world.

    Their success with the brand is probably the only reason Toronto is getting a Topshop.

    You weren’t privy to the Bay’s contract with it’s vendor, and you weren’t privy to Jonathan+Olivia’s so don’t make personal comments about things that you have no insight to.

  • G

    To apersadevoce.
    Have you ever been to Top Shop? It’s not “extremely overpriced”. Quite the contrary, it’s where girls and boys go to buy disposable fashion for the weekend. I was bemused to see the high premium J+O slap on the merch, but it doesn’t reflect the true spirit (or price point) of Tops Shop. Perhaps selling in higher volumes at The Bay will keep the prices realistic.

  • apesardevoce

    Whoa! Bonnie, relax and get off the messages boards. Don’t you have a sinking ship to try and sink faster? Or horrible radio spots to create where you sound like an angry principal giving the morning announcements? She gets praised for bringing in Juicy, and Diesel all the time in The Bay’s own press releases. Has no one told her it’s 2011 and those brands are beyond dead?
    If this Topshop idea goes beyond one stand-alone shop within the Queen St. Bay I’ll be truly shocked. Prices will be high (check out the US prices at You can’t find a dress for less than $95 USD. Not exactly comparable to the money you’d spend for a better quality garment at H&M (around $30). A store within a store deal doesn’t even exist in the USA where the market is hundreds of times bigger. There’s only one store in all of the US. Why would it fly here? This will be an epic fail again for The Bonnie Bay.

  • jr

    To Diane:

    I am not hating on J+O by any means. I have been shopping there (at her old Vancouver location) before she even came to Toronto. I buy her expensive brands.
    I just think we should be realistic about feeling “annoyed” that Top Shop might not consider their presence in her store to be a linchpin of their potential success in Canada. The reality is that having Top Shop in her boutique has helped her bring customers in the door and given them something to buy that they can afford.
    Top Shop has been eyeing continued saturation of the US market and expansion to Canada. It takes intense planning to cover the marketing, legal and leasing needs required to bring a retail chain to another country. This can take years.
    As someone who has worked in the industry for over 10 years and has access to market information, statistics and data, I believe I can comment on this matter with an informed insight.

    Also: To Apesardevoce.

    Juicy and Diesel are hardly dead brands. They might not be on the forefront of what’s current – but they are still making money and are coveted by a large demographic of customers. Not everyone is fashion savvy. These are exactly the kind of brands that you would find in most US and European department stores. I am happy that The Bay is servicing this customer.
    The epic fail for “The Bonnie Bay”? I’m sorry. Was The Bay doing well before she came on board?

  • Diane


    My response to your comment had nothing to do with Topshop overlooking their relationship with J+O. In fact, most of the media coverage does mention that Jonathan+Olivia were the first to carry the brand.

    I’m sure they’ll benefit positively from the press surrounding Topshop’s expansion in the Bay.

    My comment was directed towards your assumption that the owner had to “grovel” to get the brand.

    Someone with 10 years professional experience shouldn’t make personal comments about an industry colleague and then try to play it off as “informed insight”. It’s not insight it’s ignorance.

  • jm

    Regardless of how this all plays out, it’s refreshing to see some effort on the part of HBC for trying to re-invent itself, and give YOU the shopper more options than, ahem Holts- who we all know (especially in men’s) has been coasting for years…
    Let’s all be positive here, I don’t think anyone has any ill will towards J+O, and hopefully not HBC.

    The consumer will decide what will work ultimately, why not go into this with an open mind??

  • X

    This is so exciting, TopShop is my favourite store and to hear that it is opening here in Toronto makes myself and others really happy!

  • me

    Lets just hope that regardless of all these investments happening within The Bay, they maybe invest in some knowledgeable staff, if any staff at all, that way sales and service can actually be a part of all of this.

    I am sick of bad customer service, everywhere!

  • Coco T.O.

    Wow. Everyone is sounding so “Toronto”. Let’s get annoyed and pessimistic about a huge global brand wanting to make a bigger presence in Toronto. We’re one of the richest countries in the world and it took TopShop 30+ countries before they felt we were deserving of a flagship store. Maybe it’s because, generally speaking, our population feels more comfortable in a pair of sweat pants and crocks…now that’s a fashion statement! This is the first of many steps Toronto and Canada needs to take before anyone will look at us a fashionably savvy country. Embrace it! I mean, who wants more choice in the market place???

  • Dtowner

    I think the Jonathan and Olivia shop only carried the women’s line, yes? And not that extensive selection, either.

    Topman is just a tad pricier than H&M but not by much.

    I’m excited. However, as a guy, I am not holding my breath for anything exciting with Topman. The focus will be (definitely at first) with Topshop (the women’s line).

  • apesardevoce

    Coco T.
    What don’t you understand? Topshop still doesn’t believe Toronto can handle an actual store, or they would be opening an actual store. Instead they are opening within The Bay and are taking zero risk. Why aren’t they opening in fashion forward cities across the US? Why wouldn’t NYC have two, three, or 4 stores before Toronto would even be considered. H&M has over 10 in Manhattan alone. There’s certainly retail space available all over NYC and in the hot areas. Why isn’t Topshop expanding? Because it isn’t working for them. There isn’t a North American market for overpriced disposable fashion.

    You are completely nuts to think topshop pricing is anywhere near h&m pricing.
    Expect to pay at least double to triple the h&m price for a similar item at Topshop. Go browse their US online shop now. See for yourself.

    Here’s a link to a “I Hate How Unnecessarily Expensive Topshop Is!” facebook group that has over 56,000 members.

    Gavel Bang. I rest my case.

  • lucresialinton

    Really good debate.

    I am a young single mom (a blogger) of a teenager. We went to Topshop in New York during Fashion Week last year. I can’t lie, I expected a lot. The vibe and their clothes reminded me of H&M and Forever 21, but way pricier. I was excited to get a look at their Kate Moss collection (myself, being a fan of the model)and was disappointed. Top Shop did have some lines that I wish had more presence here like the Jeffrey Campbell shoes. With a daughter who reads a lot of fashion blogs, Topshop comes up a lot. I like the fact that The Bay (besides J&O) is bringing them here.
    Maybe The Bay will turn into a poor man’s Holt Renfrew (LOL) for then I will gladly browse. I like the fact that if I want to get Rachel Rachel Roy I can look there.

    Also, my daughter can’t wait to see the Material Girl line that is now available at The Bay. We went to Macy’s and it was almost sold out. At least The Bay is trying to do something. Some of the things my daughter wants, I have to purchase online and some of the bigger stores, I think like Macy’s don’t ship to Toronto.

    To The Bay:Please fix your website. It is annoying. At least place pictures of what you have online!!!! You need to fix your infrastructure and put some money into that. I will gladly pay for shipping! I just don’t want to see the designer’s picture and one or two models. I want to see what you have! The flyers that you just started to send last week are not enough! BTW, Halton Heritage was not that hot. Luv, ya.

  • jm

    Dear Apesaredevoce;

    Is Top Shop not expanding??
    What planet are you on? What is this article about??

    Have you ever been into a Top Shop, especially the flagship in London? It’s INSANE ALL OF THE TIME.

    I might not be a fan of the store- but saying that there isn’t a market for “overpriced disposable” anything in this world is crazy… more people buy overpriced clothing, electronics, furniture, cars etc. etc. than anything else.

    It’s going to happen with or without you- don’t support it if you don’t like it… but being a pessimistic hater doesn’t look good on you.

  • apesardevoce


    1) because something is busy in London, England, doesn’t mean it’ll work in some dank Yonge Street location. It is, by their own admission ‘slow’ in soho, toronto will be worse.
    2) you don’t know what looks good on me. I can make anything from pessimism, to hbc’s hideous olympic collection, look good.

  • Adamski

    The reason topshop hasn’t grown quicker is because of supply chains. Contrary to what some have said, topshop is far superior in quality to H&M and forever 21.. After reading that I could only assume someone has a vendetta and therefore their opinion was devalued.
    They have always quality checked all product in the UK before sending onwards, this is a major reason in the inflation in prices in the US Market. And topshop has always operated best out of 10,000+ sq ft locations, because they have the home brand but also have many designers who sell through topshop. Unless you have been to their major locations in the UK and new York I don’t think you would really understand how the store operates. It’s almost like a department store in itself.
    I am excited to have topshop moving to Toronto, and I expect it will be a huge success in time. They do need to sort out the supply chain issue before it can really spread across north America. Coming from a Market that has always had H&M, Zara, river island and topshop I can say there really is no competition in fashion and quality for topshop. They are far more fashion forward. Most small boutiques in America have stocked the Kate moss line for a while, but her name aside, there is nothing special about that line.. It is just the most attractive in the short term for north Americans.
    I move to Toronto from Los Angeles at the end of summer and I am sooo pleased there will be a topman there. Go Toronto.

  • lmh

    I have to agree, Top Shop is overpriced H&M. Top Shop is amazing in the UK because the prices are reasonable, the prices will not be reasonable here. It will be extremely over priced for mediocre quality clothing! I do not think Top Shop will take away from H&M and other similar stores because the one thing they have OVER Top Shop is reasonably priced fashion peices.

  • younglove

    im so happy to hear that topshop is coming to canada ,
    i just started becoming intrigued with their fashion sense and was bummed that they were only in UK and USA .
    this is a great idea , and personnally i will be visiting the bay ALOT now ! HAHA
    but what i realise is that the bay is a very pricey store .
    and i know Topshop is known for their incredible bargains .
    if they cant continue their low prices in toronto , then ill be very dissapointed .

    alright well ill just have to wait and see … :/

  • T

    Finally! Canadians have some real fashion forward places to shop. We are very proud to be second. I agree, TopShop is extremely overpriced for the quality, but they think outside the box in terms of style. I am extremely excited about TopShop coming to Toronto.