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Troubled department store giant in Burnaby splitting stores from online

Hudson's Bay Co. says it is separating its Burnaby department stores from its online marketplace, creating two separate businesses and distinct leadership structures.
Hudson's Bay mask sign
Mandatory mask sign posted in a Hudson's Bay Company store. (via Glacier Media)

Hudson's Bay Co. says it is separating its Burnaby department stores from its online marketplace, creating two separate businesses and distinct leadership structures. 

The company says its e-commerce business will operate as The Bay, while its group of 86 brick-and-mortar stores will operate as Hudson's Bay, including at Lougheed Town Centre in North Burnaby and Metropolis at Metrotown in South Burnaby.

HBC says the change will help accelerate the iconic retailer's digital-first technology transformation and elevate the overall shopping experience for customers both online and in store. 

The Bay has had some troubled times throughout the pandemic. Back in November 2020, managers of Coquitam Centre locked out the store over rent payments.

“The Premises has been re-entered and the Lease has been terminated by the Landlord for default in the payment of rent,” began the notice dated November 21.

The letter notes the department store had 30 days to dispute the existence of the default.

A spokesperson for HBC told Glacier Media at the time that the company was working with its landlords across North America to “amicably and logically share the losses incurred during the pandemic.”

“We believe that there are fair solutions to be had as we recover from this public health crisis,” wrote HBC spokesperson Tiffany Bourré in an email. “In this instance, we are eager to reach a fair resolution, just as we have done with other landlord partners.”

Richard Baker, HBC’s executive chairman and CEO, says dividing the e-commerce and in-person stores enables each business to make "unencumbered strategic investments." 

He says the launch of the retailer's expanded online marketplace earlier this year set in motion a rapid expansion of its e-commerce business, positioning the company to gain significant market share.

The company opened its website to third-party sellers in April, adding thousands of new brands and products to its online assortment.

Iain Nairn, president and CEO of The Bay, says the e-commerce business will focus on technology investment and innovation, with plans to launch technology hubs in Toronto and Seattle to improve fulfilment capabilities, expand marketing and extend vendor partnerships.

The retailer says its department stores will continue to play a critical role in the overall shopping experience.

Wayne Drummond, president of Hudson’s Bay, says the role of stores has never been more vital to the retailer's success.

He says the department stores will become "discovery destinations" and serve as an important touchpoint for customers. 

"With stores in major cities across the country, Hudson’s Bay provides Canadians access to the product they need and want, while offering high-touch services that many others cannot," Drummond said in a statement.

The company says returns, exchanges, rewards points and credit cards will continue to be accepted both online and in stores.

  • With additional reporting by the Canadian Press and Stefan Labbe


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