Historic Hudson’s Bay department store at Bloor and Yonge to permanently close this spring

A Hudson’s Bay store that has been open for close to 50 years in downtown Toronto will be closing this Spring. Erica Natividad with why and what this could mean for the company’s future.

By Lucas Casaletto

One of Toronto’s most prominent Hudson’s Bay retail locations will close after almost five decades.

The department store located at 44 Bloor Street East will shut down permanently this spring, a Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) spokesperson confirmed to CityNews.

Opening in 1974, the Bloor and Yonge Hudson’s Bay store acted as the company’s flagship until 1991, when a former Simpsons store in Toronto was rebranded under the Hudson’s Bay namesake.

“HBC continually looks at opportunities to optimize its real estate portfolio. Given the unique proximity to the Hudson’s Bay Queen Street flagship location in Toronto, Hudson’s Bay has made the decision to close its Bloor Street store on May 31, 2022,” HBC spokesperson Tiffany Bourré said in an email.

“The flagship store is located just 2.5 km (4 subway stops) from Bloor on Queen Street, and we will continue to serve the community with a seamless omnichannel experience at that location and through TheBay.com.”

The retail complex and adjoining 35-storey office tower are owned by Brookfield Properties.

News of the closure comes after an Ontario Superior Court Judge told the Toronto-based department store chain in June 2021 it had to pay the rent owed to its Hillcrest Mall location in Richmond Hill.

As Hillcrest and several other malls closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, HBC stopped paying its rent and argued Oxford breached lease agreements. It also claimed its contractual duty of good faith because it no longer operates “first-class shopping centres.”

Under Judge Cory Gilmore’s order, HBC was directed to repay its arrears. On July 1, the company started paying portions of its rent on a scale that “generally reflects” the intended, then-Ontario government-phased reopening plan with the outstanding amounts to be paid by March 2022.

By Oct. 1, 2021, the company was ordered to pay 90 per cent of its rent and resume total payments in November.

The Hudson’s Bay Company sign in downtown Toronto, Wednesday, July 16, 2008. Photo courtesy: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

In January 2021, the HBC permanently laid off more than 600 workers across Canada amid store closures due to COVID-19 lockdowns. The layoffs represented less than five per cent of the company’s total workforce, Bourré said at the time.

In late 2020, HBC asked the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to review the Ford government’s decision to temporarily close non-essential retailers, arguing that the public health measures were singling out local merchants. The court ultimately dismissed the HBC’s request to amend Ontario’s retail lockdown rule but questioned what it called the “wisdom and efficacy” of the province’s lockdown measures.

Toronto is home to the largest flagship store in Canada, located on Queen Street, near the Eaton Centre. There are two flagship stores in Ontario, the other located in Ottawa on Rideau Street.

The HBC opened its first department store in 1881 in Winnipeg. After nearly 50 years with The Bay brand, in 2013, the chain was rebranded to Hudson’s Bay with a new logo.

That same year, it was announced that the Hudson’s Bay store in Toronto would undergo a $100 million renovation to become the Canadian flagship location of Saks Fifth Avenue.

“We are committed to treating every associate with respect and fairness through this process,” Bourré said.

“All eligible associates will receive appropriate employment separation packages and transfer opportunities will be explored where feasible.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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