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Iconic Hudson's Bay Stores Shutter For 2 Weeks

Hudson’s Bay Co.'s decision to shutter its stores for two weeks comes at a particularly volatile time for Canada’s oldest retailer.

“The health and well-being of our associates, customers and communities is our top priority, and remains at the forefront as we make decisions in this rapidly-evolving situation,” Hudson’s Bay President Iain Nairn said in the Tuesday statement announcing the temporary closure in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Queen and Yonge coronavirus Saks Fifth Avenue
Hudson's Bay closed its stores worldwide on Tuesday in the latest move to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is the right thing to do as we all work together to stay healthy and limit the spread of the virus," Nairn said.

Other Canadian store chains are expected to join in this week, if they haven't already. The closure announcement comes just days after Hudson's Bay Co., which operates 89 stores in Canada, and 250 stores worldwide, including Saks Fifth Avenue and Saks Off Fifth, completed a  $2B take-to-private deal.

The move, overwhelmingly approved by shareholders, follows declining sales at its iconic stores and the closing of its entire operation in the Netherlands. It’s just the latest retraction and rebranding for the company, which turns 350 on May 2.

“It’s the usual state for them: floundering,” Toronto Retail Consultant Ed Strapagiel said. “That move [to privatization] comes for two reasons. They wanted the money. And they weren’t doing a very good job running the stores.”

However, Strapagiel feels HBC can survive the pandemic, even if the closure extends beyond the initial two weeks.

“They’ve got real estate assets and good stores,” he said. “They are going to survive. But it’s getting tougher and tougher. Eventually, they could break.”

Hudson’s Bay is by no means alone. Even before the pandemic, retail sales in Canada were up just 1.6% in 2019, according to StatsCan. As for physical stores, they rose a mere 1.4% year-over-year in Q4 2019.

Still, that isn't a negative. And if there is any good news, especially in a time of self-isolating, its e-commerce. Hudson’s Bay new emphasis on online sales comes as e-commerce in Canada rose 17.3% year-over-year in Q4 2019.

Hudson's Bay Co. did not respond to media inquiries.

In its news release, Hudson’s Bay said that store associates will be paid for all scheduled shifts that were planned for the two-week closure period.

Just across the street from HBC's downtown store, the Eaton's Centre remained open. As of early Wednesday, owner Cadillac Fairview was still operating the mall with reduced hours and takeout only in its food court.