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Columbia to open flagship in Toronto
U. S. outerwear giant 'has no debt and lots of cash'

Hollie Shaw, Financial Post
Published: Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The fashion industry may be stuck in a deep freeze, but outerwear giant Columbia Sportswear Co. is still braving the headwinds of expanding into Canada, inking a deal to open its first location in this country in 2010.

Columbia, one of the largest manufacturers of outdoor clothing in the world, will open its first Canadian location just steps from the cavernous Mountain Equipment Co-op store in downtown Toronto.

"The deal was signed last week," confirmed Jane Baldwin, vice-president of retail leasing and investment sales at Lennard Commercial Realty.

Columbia will build a three-storey 28,000-square foot building. "They saw this as a very strong market," Ms. Baldwin added. "They are considering opening one other flagship store in Canada."

The news is a bright spot in an industry overwhelmed by plummeting profit, store closures and layoffs.

In the last week alone, vast closures, layoffs, or both, have been announced at Starbucks, department stores Target and Macy's, and Liz Claiborne Inc., which owns the brands Lucky, Mexx, Juicy Couture and Kate Spade.

The U. S. market has seen a wave of retail insolvencies, and while Canada has thus far remained comparatively unscathed, many retailers are reluctant to expand.

Last month, Home Depot Canada agreed to pay an $11.5-million break-up fee to back out of a deal to open a store in the Toronto neighbourhood where Columbia is slated to open. But rival home improvement retailer Lowe's, which has 11 big-box outlets in this country, has confirmed it will stick to plans to open three more stores in Ontario by the end of the company's second quarter. IKEA Canada is also expanding in Winnipeg and Ottawa, the retailer announced yesterday.

"Columbia has no debt and lots of cash," Ms. Baldwin noted.

"In any downturn, the people that have strong balance sheets are able to take advantage of the downturn in the markets. Unfortunately, it means the end of some good retail. It's the financing that's the issue -- the banks become very reluctant," particularly in retailers of discretionary items such as apparel and electronics.

Canada will mark the fifth store opening for Columbia, which currently has stores in the home town of Portland, Ore., as well as Seattle and Minnesota and is scheduled to open a fourth outlet in Chicago later this year.

Still, the outfitter has not escaped the downturn -- its shares have fallen 27% in the last year, compared with a 53% drop in apparel and accessories stocks -- and it has scaled back its own store openings accordingly.

"The accelerated deterioration of the global economy since September has prompted us to recalibrate the pace of our planned investments in retail stores and brand advertising in 2009," chief executive Tim Boyle said last month. "We have tabled plans to open branded retail stores in several key metro areas in the U. S. and made adjustments to our 2009 marketing and advertising budgets."

Columbia, an 80-year-old brand that took off in the 1980s after introducing layered jackets for skiing and hunting, will sell clothing, footwear, accessories and equipment under its house and Sorel brands at the Toronto store. The flagship also includes a separate entry for its Mountain Hardwear brand, an approximately 3,000-square-foot outlet with apparel, equipment and the Montrail trail-running footwear.

Any guesses on where this will go? This is the immediate area on King West surrounding MEC (which this project is "just steps" from):

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Oops, I figured that I'd post this in P&C since the article indicates construction of a 3-storey building, but I just noticed a discussion about this is already happening in the Retail forum.
As it involves a new building, I'm not against having it here in P&C. Let's try to keep the discussion in this thread tied to the building though, and not to Columbia's clothing for example.

bAuHaUs confirms in the Retail forum that Columbia is going in where the Midas and M5V sales office were.

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That's not a very wide footprint, so even though it's only 3 storeys, it should be pretty good.
This will be a tall three storeys I assume. I hope they're hiring a better than average architect: I expect more than the usual bricks and mortar here.

Funny that they haven't applied for 40 storeys here like everyone else around them. They could try to sell their air rights, but the land will be more valuable for resale in the future if the maximum potential floor space is retained for a rebuild.

In this high-value location it would be a bit startling if they built only a retail structure, without at least a few levels of condos above. Let's watch for a development proposal to come forward.
I would rather that they build on the corner which is slated for the LCBO - a three story building as opposed to a single story building is much more agreeable and better for the street.

What strikes me as interesting is this:
Last month, Home Depot Canada agreed to pay an $11.5-million break-up fee to back out of a deal to open a store in the Toronto neighbourhood where Columbia is slated to open.

Wouldn't that make that put the store on Queen St. and not King?

The quote refers to the "neighbourhood", not the specific location. Still, you have to be struck by the contrast, of Home Depot pulling out, followed almost immediately by this announcement of someone coming in.
I may be wrong, but I believe it might be the southeast corner, not southwest. In other words, the Westinghouse development