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Nordstrom’s Arrival a Threat to Canada’s Upscale Offering

Younger and more affluent shoppers are most likely to flock to Canada’s newest department store.

High-end department-style apparel, accessories, and beauty retailers in Canada are few and far between, consisting mainly of Holt Renfrew, Harry Rosen, and depending on the city, The Bay. Nordstrom’s slated entrance into key malls in Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, and Calgary starting in 2014 could pose challenges to Canada’s upscale apparel retailers. Results from a recent study conducted by Vision Critical Retail show that the risk to these high-end retailers is most pronounced among younger and more affluent shoppers.

About four-in-ten Canadians aged 18-34 who are aware of Nordstrom are excited about its arrival; many are just waiting to learn more. Showing no love lost for Sears, the same number thinks that it’s a good thing that Nordstrom is set to take over the leases of some Sears Canada locations.

  Age Household Income
  18-34 35-54 55+ <$50K $50K-<$100K $100K+
Excited about Nordstrom opening stores in Canada 38% 29% 26% 25% 29% 39%
Nordstrom taking over Sears locations is a good thing for Canadian retail 40% 28% 29% 26% 31% 42%

“Nordstrom could be a game changer,” says David Sevitt, Vice President of Consumer, Retail & Shopper Insights at Vision Critical. “Until now, high-end Canadian retailers have enjoyed slim competition in the luxury category. We haven’t seen anything like Nordstrom enter the retail landscape. It’ll be interesting to see if Nordstrom’s performance in Canada can match expectations .”

Last year, American retailer J.Crew created a lot of buzz before its debut in Canada but received backlash from Canadian shoppers because its online and offline prices were set notably higher in Canada compared to the United States, even with the Canadian loonie at parity or higher with the American dollar.

“By learning from the shortfalls of other retailers, Nordstrom will benefit from closely studying the evolving interconnectedness between bricks, clicks, and mobile as increasingly empowered shoppers routinely span across all three realms of shopping channels when seeking desired products and pricing,” adds Sevitt. 

“At Vision Critical, we’ve helped many companies redefine themselves in times of change but we’ve also seen a fair share of companies stumble because they couldn’t adapt fast enough. Canada is becoming an increasingly attractive market to many American retailers and this trend will only continue. It’ll be interesting to see whether Canadian retailers can respond effectively,” concludes Sevitt.

Nordstrom’s shadow has likely been noticed by high-end department retailers like Holt Renfrew, who just celebrated its 175th anniversary. The retailer is currently preparing for expansions in the near future to maintain its dominant position in the upscale apparel market.

The data featured in this release was conducted by the integrated Consumer, Retail & Shopper Insights Team of Vision Critical. Results are based on a national online study conducted among 1,007 Canadian adults aged 18 or over across Canada on Jul. 25, 2012. The margin of error, which measures sampling variability, is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada.

About Vision Critical
Vision Critical pairs the world’s leading market research specialists with the most innovative software developers, marrying the precision of market research with the speed and power of online technology. Serving over 500+ global brands through offices across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia, Vision Critical creates powerful software and research solutions like the world’s leading Community Panel platform. For more information, please visit and follow Vision Critical on Twitter at!/visioncritical
Contact Information
Rich Rizzo
Vice President Consumer, Retail & Shopper Insights