The liquidation sales at Nordstrom stores across Canada will begin Tuesday.
Customers intent on leaving tips at Vancouver’s Folke restaurant tend not to get very far.
“They’ll hide it under napkins or under their plate,” said co-owner Pricilla Deo. “If we catch it while they’re still here, we just hand it back to them and politely remind them that we’re a no-tipping restaurant.”
When diners do make it out the door without tips being noticed, she says the money is used to fund staff dinners.
Folke introduced its no-tipping policy when the vegan restaurant opened in June 2022. Deo says employees earn well above minimum wage ($15.65 per hour in B.C.) and get full benefits. All overhead costs, including salaries, have already been factored into the menu prices, so customers simply pay the bill.
“It was really important to us to have an inclusive work environment where everyone was compensated fairly,” said Deo. “It’s not our customers’ responsibility to pay our staff properly. … It’s our responsibility to make sure that our staff are taken care of.”
It’s a concept that recent polls suggest many Canadians would like to see catch on, as inflation has led to higher menu prices (up 8.2 per cent higher in January compared to the previous year), and diners say they feel pressured to dole out bigger tips.
A new Angus Reid poll found that 59 per cent of Canadians surveyed would prefer an all-inclusive, no-tipping model where staff is paid a higher wage.
More than three in five Canadians also said that over the past few years, they’ve been asked to tip more often and dole out larger tips.
The poll surveyed 1,610 adults online. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
There’s also hard evidence that Canadians are shelling out more in tips. The average gratuity jumped from 16 to 20 per cent between Jan. 1, 2019, and Jan. 1, 2023, according to technology and payment services company Square, which says it counts hundreds of thousands of Canadian businesses as clients.
Two big factors are driving customers to up their tips, suggests Marc Mentzer, an organizational behaviour professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s Edwards School of Business.
First, he says, the pandemic has generated sympathy for the hospitality industry which suffered big losses during lockdowns.
Second, said Mentzer, the pre-programmed tip amounts on electronic credit and debit card readers may be goading some people into tipping more.
“There are percentages that are pre-programmed into the device,” said Mentzer, noting it can be awkward to navigate the self-select tip option. “Even more awkward if I have to ask the server, ‘How do I leave a non-standard tip?'”
Back at Folke Restaurant, customer Anshul Bhandari said he’s noticed drastically higher tip-prompt amounts on card readers over the years.
“It’s gone as crazy as … up to 30 per cent — even for take-out,” he said. “It’s not nice from a consumer point of view.”
Bhandari applauds the transparent, no-tipping model. So does customer Jason Yip.
“I would prefer knowing exactly what the bill would be at the end of the day and also knowing that the server is getting paid a fair wage,” he said.
Mentzer said he takes issue with tipping in general, because a server’s age, gender or race could affect how much they make in gratuities.
“It’s really a weird way of compensating people,” he said. “There are some serious issues of human rights.”
In several countries, such as Japan and Denmark, gratuities are not expected and the service is included in the bill.
Even so, Mentzer said he believes tipping is here to stay in Canada, because it’s ingrained in our culture.
Richard Alexander, the Atlantic vice-president of industry group Restaurants Canada echoes that thought. He estimates no more than two per cent of restaurants in the country have adopted the no-tipping model.
“The gratuity is firmly established,” he said. “What we hear from consumers is they prefer to have the control.”
At Lazy Daisy’s Cafe in Toronto, customer Mike Stepko said he always leaves a tip, but wants the option to top it up — when warranted.
“There are times where the service is pretty much outstanding,” he said. “That’s where you want to give 20 to 25 per cent. … I don’t think that should ever change.”
Another hurdle is that many restaurants may not be ready to shift to a no-tipping model, fearful of the consequences.
Lazy Daisy’s owner, Dawn Chapman, supports such a model, but said she would only adopt it if it became the norm across Canada. That’s because, in order to boost wages, Chapman estimates she would have to raise menu prices by 20 per cent.
“It’s too risky,” she said. “My worry is that people would come in and say I don’t wanna pay $15 for a breakfast sandwich. I’m gonna go to the place where I can pay $11 and choose a 10 per cent tip.”
Nordstrom is expected to begin liquidating its stores across Canada today.
The start of the department store chain’s closing sale comes a day after the U.S. retailer’s Canadian branch got permission from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to start selling off merchandise.
Nordstrom’s liquidation efforts are being led by Hilco Merchant Retail Solutions ULC and Gordon Brothers Canada and are expected to be complete by late June.
Furniture, fixtures and equipment will be liquidated alongside most of Nordstrom’s merchandise, but goods from third parties aren’t part of the sale because they were removed from stores over the weekend.
Nordstrom required court approval to liquidate because it is winding down its Canadian operations under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, which helps insolvent businesses restructure or end operations in an orderly fashion.
As part of the wind down, Nordstrom will close its six Canadian department store locations and seven Nordstrom Rack shops, which sell designer goods at discount prices.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 21, 2023.
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The upscale department store chain has a store at the Rideau Centre mall as well as a Nordstrom Rack location at the Ottawa Train Yards shopping centre
The liquidation sales at Nordstrom stores across Canada will begin Tuesday.
A spokesperson for Nordstrom confirmed the impending sales period Monday in an email to The Canadian Press, just after the Ontario Superior Court of Justice gave the U.S. retailer’s Canadian branch permission to start selling off its merchandise.
The upscale department store chain that primarily sells designer apparel, shoes and accessories has six Canadian stores and seven discount Nordstrom Rack locations, including its Rideau Centre location and a Nordstrom Rack at the Ottawa Train Yards shopping centre, which sells merchandise at discounted prices.
When Nordstrom announced the move in early March, it said it expected the Canadian stores to close by late June and 2,500 workers to lose their jobs.
The company initiated the exit from the market because chief executive Erik Nordstrom said, “despite our best efforts, we do not see a realistic path to profitability for the Canadian business.”
Nordstrom opened its first Canadian store in Calgary in 2014, followed by the Ottawa store at the Rideau Centre, which occupied the second and third levels of a former Sears location.
The Rideau Centre store has an alterations and tailoring shop and an energy drinks bar. Merchandise ranges from brand name to designer apparel, housewares, furnishings and beauty products, including brands such as Geox shoes, Gucci, Adidas and Adidas by Stella McCartney.
Later on came Nordstrom Rack, which made its Canadian debut in 2018 at Vaughan Mills, a mall north of Toronto. At the time, Nordstrom said as many as 15 more Rack locations could follow.
Nordstrom promised each Rack store would deliver savings of up to 70 per cent on apparel, accessories, home, beauty and travel items from 38 of the top 50 brands sold in its Canadian department stores.
Nordstrom had trouble with profitability because of its selection of products and the COVID-19 pandemic, said Tamara Szames, executive director and industry adviser of Canadian retail at the NPD Group research firm, a day after Nordstrom announced its exit.
“You would hear a lot of Canadian saying that the assortment wasn’t the same in Canada that it was in the U.S.,” she said.
She noticed Nordstrom started to shift its product mix away from some luxury brands around 2018 and saw it as a sign that the retailer was struggling to maintain its original vision and integrity.
The pandemic made matters worse because many stores were forced to temporarily close their doors to quell the virus and shoppers were less likely to need some of the items Nordstrom sells like dressy apparel because events had been cancelled.
Despite stores reopening and many sectors rebounding, Szames said the apparel business is the only industry NPD Group tracks that has yet to recover from the health crisis.
“The consumer has really been holding back in terms of spendâ¦within that industry.”
At a hearing at Osgoode Hall in Toronto, lawyer Jeremy Dacks, who represented Nordstrom, said the company has “worked hard to achieve a consensual path forward” with landlords, suppliers and a court-appointed monitor to find an orderly way to wind down the business.
The monitor, Alvarez & Marsal Canada, suggested five potential third-party liquidators and Nordstrom was approached by another five. The company decided to go with a joint venture comprised of Hilco Merchant Retail Solutions ULC and Gordon Brothers Canada, which were involved in the liquidation of Target, Sears and Forever 21 in Canada, Dacks said.
They will oversee the sale of merchandise, furniture, fixtures and equipment, but not goods from third parties, which removed products this past weekend, Dacks said. He added that all sales will be final and no returns will be allowed.
Lawyers for Nordstrom landlords Cadillac Fairview, Ivanhoe Cambridge, Oxford Properties Ltd. and First Capital Realty testified Monday that they were pleased with how “smoothly” and “organized” the process has gone so far.
In approving Dacks’ liquidation request, Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz agreed, saying Nordstrom is facing a “difficult time, but this process is unfolding in a very cooperative manner.”
Nordstrom required court approval to begin the liquidation because it is winding down its Canadian operations under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, which helps insolvent businesses restructure or end operations in an orderly fashion.
With files from Joanne Laucius
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