First Saks Fifth Avenue store opens in Toronto

A U.S. luxury goods chain has opened its doors for the first time in Canada.

The country’s first Saks Fifth Avenue store is having its grand opening Thursday in downtown Toronto.

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The four-storey retailer is expected to carry an “extensive selection of beauty, designer apparel, shoes and accessories.”

Saks is the latest U.S. chain to make the move north. Another retail chain, Nordstrom, has already opened stores in Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa.

But Saks is opening in Canada at a time when the economy is dwindling.

Doug Stephens, founder of Retail Prophet, says plans to open luxury chains were made at a time when the Canadian economy was strong, so the stores may now face an uphill battle.

Stephens said that consumers will expect a certain level of customer service from a luxury chain such as Saks.

“If they fail to deliver on that customer experience, it’s all over,” Stephens said on CTV’s Canada AM on Thursday. “Nothing else really matters.”

Still fresh in Canadian consumers’ minds is the “colossal failure” of Target to make inroads north of the border, Stephens noted.

The popular U.S. chain shut all its stores across Canada only less than two years after arriving north of the border.

However, Stephens says Saks is opening under a different set of circumstances.

“Target attempted to open over 200 stores in a very, very short period of time,” Stephens said. “In Saks’ case, we’re talking about seven (stores)."

Stephens said he doesn’t expect to see the same set of problems affecting Saks or Nordstrom in Canada.

“I don’t think you have the kind of anticipation necessarily, that Canadian consumers had of Target,” Stephens said, adding “the stakes were much higher.”

Saks plans to bring six more stores to Canada and as many as 25 stores under the Saks Off Fifth discount brand.



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