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Opinion: Le Chateau's final days in Burnaby were pathetic, but could it be reborn?

Could it return like Forever 21 did?

Well, a fashion era has officially ended in Burnaby, but could we actually see a rebirth one day?

Le Chateau officially closed up shop at Metropolis at Metrotown after decades of selling discount clothing in Burnaby, including a stint at Lougheed Town Centre.

It was there where I bought the components for the suit I wore for my Burnaby North Secondary School graduation waaaaaaaaay back in 1986. (As I remember there was a lot of black and purple involved as I was in my Prince phase – OK, I never actually ended my Prince phase and am still mourning his death.)

And now it’s all over as the company has folded up its stores. It wasn’t just the pandemic, although that didn’t help. No, Le Chateau has struggled for years along with many other fashion retailers.

Now there’s just an empty shell with a closing-out sale sign on the window. The staff are all now out of work. In all, about 1,400 people are losing their jobs.

Look, I get it, Le Chateau is just another fashion retailer leaving Metropolis, along with Frank and Oak, Pink, Little Mountain and others. But for a lot of people, it was their favourite place to buy clothing. Big, bold colours and some affordable prices – at least in the days when I shopped there.

My partner is pretty sad about it. She loved shopping there. The final days of watching the store wind down were just so sad.

But is this really the end of Le Chateau?

It turns out a U.S. advisory firm is hoping that Canadian clothing retailer Le Chateau will rise from the ashes of insolvency.

Hilco Streambank says Le Chateau's e-commerce platform, brand assets and some locations are available for purchase through the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act proceedings. Expressions of interest were due back on April 7 with the sale being subject to approval by the Quebec Superior Court.

And, as we’ve seen, fashion retailer Forever 21 left Metropolis at Metrotown back in 2019 but recently opened a new store in the same mall after going through the insolvency process.

Le Chateau, a 60-year-old Montreal-based retailer, filed for creditor protection last October, joining several companies that have been affected by the impact of COVID-19 and a change in consumer tastes.

Hilco says the company's e-commerce business, including proprietary technology accounted for $21.7 million or 13 per cent of gross revenues in fiscal 2020. Online sales increased 17 per cent between fiscal 2019 and 2020. 

“Le Chateau is well-known as Canada’s leading dress and occasion retailer,” Hilco executive vice-president David Peress said. 

“The brand boasts a well-defined and accepted fashion sensibility and point of view with appeal to women in Canada and the US.”

A potential buyer has the opportunity to select retail locations to maintain a retail presence, a Hilco investor fact sheet says.

The retailer's main customer base were women 25 to 44 years of age. About 30 per cent of its clothing has been manufactured in its Montreal facility.

Le Chateau's intellectual property includes 80 internationally registered trademarks, 60 years of goodwill, a database of nearly 500,000 active customers, 18 domain names and social media accounts.

  • With files from the Canadian Press

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.