The Uniqlo store in New York City. Credit: m01229/Flickr

Rumours about Japanese fast-fashion retailer Uniqlo have been swirling around the Vancouver retail scene for years, but it looks as if the much-anticipated retailer may have finally found a spot.

An application has been filed to replace the glass rotunda at Pacific Centre with a new three storey retail building. If you’re wondering where this rotunda is, it’s the 90s-tastic atrium at the corner of West Georgia and Howe.

This is not the first time Pacific Centre has proposed a new retail space to replace the atrium.

Several years ago, Abercrombie and Fitch was supposed to move into a new, two storey retail building on the corner, but that never happened. Instead, the flagging retailer moved into a smaller space in the newly expanded part of Pacific Centre below Nordstrom.

Uniqlo has been searching for a suitable Vancouver space for several years, and has been open about its desires to open a store in Vancouver.

The CEO of Uniqlo USA and Canada told Business in Vancouver in 2015 that Vancouver would be next after Toronto in the retailer’s expansion plans.

“Our first two stores in the great City of Toronto will mark the launch of the Uniqlo brand in Canada, which we aim to build upon thereafter with a presence in the lovely city of Vancouver,” said Larry Meyer.

Interestingly, when this website originally tweeted out this story you are currently reading, speculating on Uniqlo coming to Pacific Centre, the tweet was favourited by the official Uniqlo twitter account.

Uniqlo Vancouver tweet
Tweet from this websites twitter account, speculating on future Uniqlo at Pacific Centre in Vancouver, was favourited by Uniqlo’s official twitter account. Coincidence?

The architects of the Pacific Centre expansion, Perkins+Will Canada, recently released renderings of the new retail building, as well as detailed floor plans. The new store looks to be two floors, with a restaurant on the third floor. Uniqlo does not operate restaurants, so perhaps the new restaurant may be operated by the adjacent Four Seasons Hotel.

Uniqlo is currently putting the finishing touches on their first two Canadian stores in Toronto, the first of which is also at a mall owned by Cadillac Fairview (CF Eaton Centre) — the owners of Pacific Centre. The CF Eaton Centre Store opened September 30, 2016.

It’s highly likely that when Uniqlo finally does announce their new Vancouver location, it will be this new retail space at Pacific Centre. However, no formal announcement has yet been made by either Uniqlo or Cadillac Fairview.

Another rumoured location for a Uniqlo store in Vancouver is the upcoming redevelopment of the post office building on West Georgia Street, across from the library. The redevelopment will bring several new large retail spaces to the downtown core.

The Toronto stores measure around 28,000 sq. ft. each, and the second store, at Yorkdale Shopping Centre, opens in October.

The Globe and Mail sat down with Uniqlo founder Tadashi Yanai about the opening of their first Canadian store, and the interview had some interesting tidbits:

  • Uniqlo only has between 10-15 per cent brand awareness among Canadian consumers
  • “The current shopping mall stores are a source of struggle” with downtown stores far outperforming stores in shopping malls in the U.S. (this would seem to suggest a Metrotown location is unlikely as the first Metro Vancouver location)
  • “We tend to do a better job on the West Coast. The West Coast is closer geographically to Asia.”
  • “A” class malls are good. In “B” and “C” malls, we will be closing stores.
  • The current plan is to close five stores out of 45 in the U.S. [five already closed.]
  • If things go well in Canada, probably the outside potential could be 100 stores.”

As mentioned, Uniqlo has long been rumoured to be opening a second Metro Vancouver location at Metrotown, in the space formerly occupied by Home Outfitters. A repurposing of the former Target space at Metrotown has also been floated as a possible future home for Uniqlo. Interestingly, the Globe and Mail reported in January 2015 that Uniqlo will “inevitably try to learn from Target’s missteps.” A retail consultant quoted in the article said “Uniqlo plans an initial slow entry into Canada to help understand the retail landscape.”

But in the meantime, for Vancouver residents thirsty for Uniqlo’s high-quality, well-priced basics, there’s always the Uniqlo at Bellevue Square in Washington State, just 229 kilometres from Vancouver. It’s currently the closest location.

Last updated November 5, 2016

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