Shoppers decry disrepair at Vancouver flagship Bay store

Recently, the flagship store at Granville and West Georgia streets was eerily quiet. Most elevators and escalators were out of service and arrows placed on the floor directed shoppers toward the stairs.

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The Bay department store in downtown Vancouver is a shadow of its former self.

On a recent weekday visit, most of the elevators and escalators were out of service and arrows placed on the floor directed shoppers toward a staircase. The store was eerily quiet compared to the rest of Pacific Center. There was no background music playing from the speakers, except in a corner of the men’s clothing department on the sixth floor.

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The exit to the SkyTrain was sealed in the basement. A sign revealed that this was due to a malfunctioning door, but there was no indication if or when it would be repaired.

Sales staff were heard telling bewildered customers that the lifts had been out of service for some time and they did not know which lone escalator might be running on any given day.

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Out of Service sign outside an elevator at The Bay department store in Vancouver, BC, on January 9, 2024. Photo: Joanne Lee-Young Photo by Joanne Lee-Young /sun

Victoria resident Nick Alexander left the store and described his experience as “just horrible.”

“It’s just collapsed,” he said, nothing, there was only one elevator working and few staff. “I will not come back”.

The flagship store status in Granville and West Georgia comes as the Hudson’s Bay Co. brand, which is Canada’s oldest retailer, had a bumpy ride last year, according to Vancouver-based retail analyst David Ian Gray.

“There’s no money to invest,” Gray said.

He’s not sure it’s true, but he’s heard industry rumors that some retail employees were resorting to bringing their own portable speakers to listen to music.

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Hudsons Bay store in Vancouver. The flagship store status in Granville and West Georgia comes as the Hudson’s Bay Co. brand, which is Canada’s oldest retailer, had a bumpy ride last year. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

Hudson’s Bay Co. cut staff in January 2023 and then again in May 2023 for a total of approximately 500 employees nationwide performing corporate functions.

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In late November, the company said its president and CEO Sophia Hwang-Judiesch, who had been in the role since September 2022, would step down and that former president Liz Rodbell, who led the brand from 2013 to 2017, would return. .

Around the same time, media reported that Hudson’s Bay Co. completed real estate transactions in the United States and Canada that raised $340 million in cash to finance retail operations after falling behind on payments to its suppliers.

Parent company HBC LP, which owns Hudson’s Bay, Saks Fifth Avenue and Saks OFF 5TH, said it was using cash from the sale of some properties to pay overdue invoices to suppliers.

The company’s real estate portfolio was previously estimated to be worth about $7 billion.

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Sign saying SkyTrain exit doors are sealed; Said to be due to a door malfunction, at The Bay department store in Vancouver, BC, on January 9, 2024. Photo: Joanne Lee-Young. Photo by Joanne Lee-Young /sun

“All repairs have been planned and are expected to begin this month,” spokeswoman Tiffany Bourre said in a statement Wednesday about the Vancouver store.

“Any delayed payments are due to HBC managing the challenging environment that is impacting the broader retail industry, particularly in Canada. “Hudson’s Bay is committed to the Vancouver market and we are excited about what awaits us in 2024,” he added.

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The downtown Vancouver store, with its iconic century-old heritage exterior, has been undergoing redevelopment since HBC announced in 2022 a mixed-use project that would maintain the heritage building’s exterior and add a 12-million-square-foot, 12-million-square-foot office tower. multi-story glass at the top.

HBC executives from Toronto and New York announced the plans and unofficially estimated the redevelopment cost at 700 million Canadian dollars. The Bay had 500 employees and 5,000 people were expected to work in the offices.

At the time, executives stated that if the project proposal could pass the city of Vancouver’s permitting process, redevelopment could begin in early 2024. But there are no details on a marketing strategy. website about the remodeling of The Bay building.

An assistance sign in front of an escalator and stairs at The Bay department store in Vancouver.
An assistance sign in front of an escalator and stairs at The Bay department store in Vancouver. Photo by Joanne Lee-Young

The City of Vancouver has not received any rezoning requests.

“HBC remains committed to the redevelopment of the downtown Vancouver store and we continue to engage in discussions with city planning staff to move the project forward,” Bourre wrote in a statement.

The office vacancy rate in downtown Vancouver has been the highest in two decades, although numbers have declined recently. In 2023, large pension funds put their downtown Vancouver office buildings up for sale as pressures mounted to lighten exposure to office space.

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However, the office vacancy rate in downtown Vancouver is lower than that seen in other Canadian cities, such as Calgary at 30 percent and Toronto at 17.4 percent.

Meanwhile, the complaints continue.

Paul Davis, who has been shopping at the store for 30 years, said he approached management about the deteriorating state of the elevators.

“You have a department store… and you have signs telling customers to use the stairs. “I can’t imagine Bloomingdale’s or Macy’s in America doing this,” she said.

“When you look at the way they have marketed the store, it gives the impression that they are struggling. … This is supposed to be their flagship store.”

With files from John Mackie and Douglas Quan

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Hudsons Bay store in Vancouver, BC, Wednesday, January 10, 2024. There are signs of wear and tear at the flagship store. (Photo by Jason Payne/PNG) Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

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