We knew things were really bad at BlackBerry. Now we know they’re really, really bad. Rumours are swirling that the faltering tech giant will cull up to 40 per cent of its workforce by Christmas, which would bring its employee count below 8,000. (To compare, two years ago, the company had more than 17,000 people.) BlackBerry wouldn’t comment on the story, but sources say the cuts will come in waves, affect all departments and hit BlackBerry’s Waterloo headquarters the hardest. The extra twist of the knife: news of the layoffs broke the same day that the company unveiled the BlackBerry Z30. It has the largest screen and longest battery life of any BlackBerry to date—not that anyone noticed. [Wall Street Journal]
After weeks of negotiations and rumours of competing bids, Hudson’s Bay Company has finalized a $2.9-billion deal to buy Saks Fifth Avenue and its discount offshoot Saks Off Fifth. HBC CEO Richard Baker is reportedly itching to bring the the two stores to Canada: either by incorporating the Saks banner into select Hudson’s Bay locations or by converting entire Hudson’s Bay stores into Saks stores. Either way, HBC better move quickly if it wants to strike ahead of Nordstrom’s arrival next year. [Globe and Mail]
Loblaw Companies announced this morning that it’s buying Shoppers Drug Mart, a high-stakes move that should help it compete with the incoming onslaught of new Whole Foods and Target stores. The deal, which Loblaw scion Galen G. Weston and Shoppers chairman Holger Kluge hammered out in a van on a country road late last week, will see Canada’s largest grocery chain pay $12.4 billion in cash and stock for Canada’s biggest drugstore chain, provided it’s approved by shareholders and the Competition Bureau. By taking over Shoppers’ 1,200 drug stores, Loblaw should net greater negotiation clout with suppliers, an estimated $300 million a year in economies of scale and a significant share of Canada’s pharmacy business. The mega-corp will also obtain hundreds of small-format urban spaces, which it’ll need if its new health-focused pharma-grocery store concept catches on. Loblaws says no stores will close asa result of the merger, and—for all the Life Brand diehards out there—Shoppers’ in-house label isn’t going anywhere.
In three months, HBC has promoted luxury guru Bonnie Brooks, opened Canada’s largest women’s shoe store, hinted it wants to partner with Uniqlo and announced a Toronto Kleinfeld Bridal boutique. Now, the company is reportedly looking to purchase Saks Inc., which owns 40-odd Saks Fifth Avenue stores across the U.S. We like the potential benefits for both HBC and Canadian shoppers: Saks’ relationships with luxury designers could bring Hudson’s Bay more high-end brands and converting some existing Bay locations into Saks stores would make better use of HBC’s real estate. The acquisition would also net prime American retail locations for HBC’s Lord and Taylor banner. Still, it’s probably a little too early to get excited. Several U.S. private equity groups are rumoured to be interested in Saks and similar talks between HBC CEO Richard Baker and Bloomingdales never ended up yielding a deal. [Women’s Wear Daily]
Bonnie Brooks, the luxury retail whiz who led Hudson’s Bay’s revamp from dowdy department store to high-flying retailer, is stepping back from day-to-day leadership with a new job as vice-chairman. After becoming president in 2008, Brooks dropped hundreds of underperforming lines, like Liz Claiborne and Bill Blass, and brought in buzzier brands, like Top Shop and Coach, along with a high-end boutique that regularly draws socialites and celebrities. CEO Richard Baker says the promotion will allow Brooks to work on similar big-picture strategies for HBC’s other brands, which include 69 Home Outfitters stores and 48 Lord and Taylor department stores in the U.S. HBC chief merchant Liz Rodbell will take over as the new president. Brooks, however, will remain the public face (and voice, presumably) of the company. [Globe and Mail]
Shoppers Drug Mart showed this week that, like Samsung Canada and Morton’s Steakhouse, it knows how to have some fun with its customers. When a Shoppers mailer addressed to a stranger arrived at Andrew Gardner’s Toronto house, he sent a tongue-in-cheek email to give the company a heads up.
I can draw one of two conclusions from this: 1) that Matthew is a previous resident of this address, and has not updated his address information with your system for over 3 years (the approximate time that I’ve lived here), in which case, please contact him about his up-to-date address information, and send no further mail to this address.
Or 2), and I may be going out on a limb here, Matthew is a future resident of this address, and seemingly against the laws of causation, your computer system has this information, and prematurely mailed an advertisement to him before he’s actually lived here.
In lieu of a boilerplate, “we apologize for any inconvience” reply, Shoppers wrote a return missive from the future with perfect deadpan tone (it even earned a stamp of approval from Toronto sci-fi author Cory Doctorow). Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
Real estate giants Simon Property Group and Calloway Real Estate Investment Trust are opening a huge outlet mall on August 1 in Halton Hills, about an hour’s drive from downtown. Along with the first Hudson’s Bay outlet store, Toronto Premium Outlets will also have the first Canadian discount locations of several big-name brands, including Kate Spade New York, DKNY and Restoration Hardware. In all, the mall will have about 85 stores, with plans for a second phase of construction when some of the luxury brands just now arriving in Canada are ready to open discount offshoots. Between Halton Hills and Tanger Factory Outlets’s plans to expand their Cookstown outlet centre, Torontonians could soon see the end of a long-standing tradition of cross-border shopping. Below, the full list of stores.
Cross-border shopping is getting less and less tempting. First, a raft of American brands opened stores in Toronto, and now a growing number of shops, including Loft, Ann Taylor, Express and Lululemon, are charging the same prices on both sides of the border. The majority of Aldo’s merchandise is also priced identically, while Abercrombie and sister brand Hollister have lowered Canadian prices from 25 to 30 per cent higher to just five to seven per cent higher (the company says duties account for the vestigial mark-up). The push for price equality can be traced to lower costs, near parity between the two countries’ currencies and that the Internet makes it possible for Canadians to find out easily if they’re getting bilked. Target, we hope you’re taking notes. [Globe and Mail]
Despite attracting thousands of subscribers, Bixi Toronto is still having trouble covering its operating costs two years in. The bike sharing program has only paid back $600,000 of its $4.5 million start-up loan and, since the city guaranteed that loan, city staff are recommending council restructure its relationship with Bixi. (Complicating matters, the Montreal-based company that owns Bixi is reportedly looking to sell off its franchises, including the Toronto one.) Bixi’s balance sheet problems probably won’t spell an imminent end to the heavy black bikes, though: several councillors, Karen Stintz and Mike Layton among them, have already reiterated their support for the idea of bike-sharing. They also repeated the oft-heard call for more bikes and more docking stations as a path to self-sufficiency—though Montreal has 411 stations to Toronto’s 80 and still racks up a $7-million deficit each year. [Torontoist]
By Mariusz Klapacz | Illustration by Cat Yelizarov
I was born in communist Poland and arrived in Canada when I was 12 years old. My parents came for the opportunities, the hope that I might one day get a decent job and build a home and family. By 2001, I was 27 and had spent the past decade in dead-end jobs. I wanted work that I could build a future on, and so I applied at a major grocery chain’s warehouse. They offered me a part-time job at $12 an hour. Thrilled at the idea of working for one of Canada’s most reputable companies, I accepted on the spot.
American superstore Target’s Canadian invasion took a big leap forward today with the opening of 17 new Ontario locations, including those in Toronto’s East York Town Centre and Centrepoint Mall and Etobicoke’s Cloverdale Mall. The stores are still in soft launch mode, which means that, like during the launch of the chain’s Guelph store on March 5, a few snafus are to be expected. The Shoppers World Danforth and the Square One Shopping Centre locations will soft-open March 28, and the brand is promising a splashy grand opening in early April.
Shayne Hughes, the CEO of a California-based business consultancy called Learning as Leadership, recently put a moratorium on interoffice emails. He defended his experiment in Forbes magazine by explaining that he wanted to force his employees to communicate with each other in person. He’s the latest in a line of corporate leaders to encourage face-to-face interaction by prohibiting email. Over the last few years, executives at Intel, Deloitte and Veritas, among other companies, have all instituted versions of the same idea.
The trend is part of an ongoing attempt to address some of the alienating aspects of the digital age: the computer, an otherwise spectacular communication tool, often prevents us from actually talking to each other. Many open-concept offices have been rendered eerily silent as workers spend their days emailing back and forth. In my office, days go by when I don’t know if a colleague who works on another floor is even in the building.
The leases in a building at the centre of Kensington Market expire May 31, which could mean big changes for the eclectic area. The property on the northeast corner of Baldwin and Augusta and extending to 200 Baldwin Street houses five business, including the Casa Acoreana food shop and cafe, whose owner has already said that he can’t afford the landlord’s new rent. Realtor Philip Pick, infamous around Kensington Market for an unsuccessful attempt to bring in a Starbucks, is handling the deal and says he may once again reach out to large chains. “The decision is in the hands of the landlord,” he says. “I just expose it to the open market so that the landlord can make the best possible decision.” The landord had better choose well: a Second Cup that came to the area several years ago was met with such a frosty welcome from locals that it closed after only 6 months. [h/t Toronto Star]
Despite pricey renovations at Sherway Gardens, Vaughan Mills and Square One, Yorkdale Shopping Centre keeps strengthening its claim to the title of the GTA’s best mega-mall. In the wake of some high-profile store launches in 2012, six more global brands are opening their first Canadian location there in 2013. They include: American jeweller David Yurman; upscale menswear designer John Varvatos; British luxury brand Mulberry; U.S. womenswear giant White House Black Market; Zara Home, a home furnishings spinoff from the fast-fashion giant; and AllSaints, a fast-growing British retailer with mid-priced, sombre-coloured clothes for both sexes. Toronto’s first Ferragamo store is also slated to open at Yorkdale this year, as are new locations from Massimo Dutti, Honey and several others. See below for the full list of new and expanded retailers. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
The Royal Canadian Mint will stop distributing pennies to banks and businesses tomorrow, which means that, although the humble copper coin remains legal tender, businesses will now no longer give them as change. The day’s bewildering array of penny-centric articles suggests that Canadians have a strong attachment to the wee copper coin (as well as an awful lot of anxiety about the country’s ability to round to the nearest nickel). Below, the 10 weirdest—and yet strangely touching—send-offs.