Connect with us


Nordstrom followed a familiar path to failure: too big, too fast — and not Canadian enough



Nordstrom’s decision to close all its stores in Canada and seek protection from its creditors is just the latest example of a U.S. retailer setting up shop to much fanfare, only to have it all fizzle out.

Less than a decade after launching in Canada, the U.S. chain announced Thursday it will shutter all 13 of its department stores across the country in the coming weeks as it puts its focus on its domestic operations and jettisons a Canadian division that has never managed to eke out a profit.

Court filings show that in 2022, Nordstrom’s Canadian division sold about $515 million Cdn worth of goods. But it lost $72 million while doing so.

The news came as a surprise for many shoppers and employees, but it wasn’t a shock for Liza Amlani, principal and founder of the Retail Strategy Group, because she saw it coming.


“When Nordstrom came into Canada, they scaled way too quickly,” she told CBC News in an interview. The chain launched in multiple cities, and then brought its discount offering Nordstrom Rack to the marketplace too, before the parent stores had even found their footing.

“The challenge with scaling too quickly is that it’s very difficult to understand truly what that customer wants,” she said. “Because a customer in Alberta is very different from a customer in Toronto, who is very different from a customer in Vancouver.”

Amlani says many American retailers make the classic mistake of assuming that whatever they do in the U.S. will work just as well in Canada — and they often pay the price.

WATCH | Retail analyst explains what Nordstrom’s demise means for Canada:



Doug Stephens discusses what Nordstrom’s exit from Canada means for the retail landscape.

Perhaps the most well known example of that phenomenon in action was Target, which launched in Canada to much fanfare in 2013, only to shutter all 133 locations barely two years later.

Canadians who travel to the U.S. were very familiar with the chain, so she says when its offerings in Canada ended up being a strange mix of higher-than-expected prices and a lot of empty shelves, Canadians rejected it.

Nordstrom fared a little better, but Amlani says in retrospect the chain should have simply opened two stores, perhaps one each in Vancouver and Toronto, while it learned about the market. “Then they would have really been able to build something,” she said.

While the chain made many mistakes along the way, retail consultant Bruce Winder says the main one was that Nordstrom simply misjudged the opportunity presented by the Canadian market.

“They probably just overestimated how rich we are and how much we spend on luxury goods,” he said in an interview. “We just don’t have as many people who would desire that kind of merchandise they needed to break even.”

The pandemic has brought about major upheaval in the retail sector in general, but department stores face even more challenges than most because they are under siege from all sides, Winder says.

Shoppers walk past a Nordstrom store in Toronto
Shoppers walk past a Nordstrom department store in Toronto’s Eaton Centre mall. The luxury retail chain announced it will exit the Canadian market, closing all 13 of its stores in the country. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Discount stores are eating away their value-oriented customer base from below, while luxury brands are increasingly going direct to consumers instead of through retail channels. And they’re often saddled with legacy costs like rent and store maintenance for their huge storefronts, which makes it hard to pivot on the fly.

“I think the department store is on its last legs,” Winder says. “The business has been under fire through everyone from J.C. Penney to Macy’s and in Canada … Sears, Eaton’s closing years ago … the department store is probably at the last leg of its life cycle.”

That may well be the case, but the chain isn’t pulling its department store model everywhere. The news of the Canadian closures came as the U.S. parent revealed quarterly earnings this week, numbers that showed the chain took in more than $4 billion US in revenue over the busy holiday shopping period, and booked a profit of $119 million.

Those figures topped expectations, but the company has faced pressure from activist investors seeking to reverse a two-year slide in the company’s stock price, which is why Winder speculates that the chain basically gave up in Canada to focus on problems at home.

“What companies do normally when they’re under siege like this, is they start to jettison any assets they can,” Winder said. “Like a ship that’s sinking a little bit, they throw things overboard and … they probably looked at Canada and said, hey, it’s about three per cent of our business, we’re not making money yet, let’s just cut this off.”

Professor Nicole Rourke, who teaches business at St. Clair College in Windsor, Ont., says the rise in online shopping is hurting chains like Nordstrom that have an extensive brick-and-mortar presence and associated costs.

“It’s a tough time to be in the department store industry,” she said in an interview. “E-commerce has really made it very difficult to stay in business and be profitable.”

The chain couldn’t manage to make any more money selling online than it could in its physical stores, and as part of its wind-down in Canada, the chain has actually halted all of its online sales at, even as the physical stores will soon be offering liquidation sales to entice shoppers.

Nordstrom’s inability to make online shopping work for them says a lot about why they went under, because Rourke says the Canadian marketplace is uniquely positioned to be ideal for those who can excel at e-commerce.

“Because we’re so geographically dispersed, we are the perfect setting to do e-commerce in,” she said. “That’s something that’s often overlooked by a lot of American retailers.”

Ultimately, Nordstrom may be destined to be just the latest in a long line of American chains that came north with great expectations, only to fail. “They looked at their product lines, and they just said, You know what, we’re not going to make it in Canada. It’s just not profitable enough for us,” she said.

“They gave it a good old college try but they just couldn’t see the growth potential.”


Source link

Continue Reading


Millennials dominate insolvencies as credit card, student loan, CERB tax debts add up – BNN Bloomberg



Insolvency trustee Doug Hoyes encounters a lot of Canadians with money troubles, but he’s become particularly sympathetic to the plight of young people who find themselves financially underwater. 

For more than a decade, his Ontario-based firm Hoyes Michalos has been crunching bankruptcy and insolvency numbers for its annual “Joe Debtor” analysis, with its latest results released last month ahead of tax season. 

He’s concluded that millennial Canadians have been dealt a generational losing hand as they face student loans layered with bad debts from credit cards, high-interest loans, and post-pandemic tax debt from collecting CERB.


“I think there’s a whole bunch of whammies that have hit millennials.” Hoyes said. “The CERB was the final straw that broke the camel’s back.”

The 2022 Joe Debtor study examined 2,700 personal insolvencies filed in Ontario. Hoyes Michalos says 49 per cent were filed by millennials aged 26 to 41, even though they make up 27 per cent of adult Canadians.

The study found that on a per-population basis, millennials were 1.4 times more likely to file for insolvency than people in generation X aged 42 to 56, and 1.7 times more likely than baby boomers aged 57 to 76. 

Insolvent millennials were on average 33 years old and owed an average of $47,283 in unsecured debt.

Hoyes said many people collected CERB and other pandemic-relief funds without fully appreciating the tax liabilities those programs generated, finding themselves insolvent and unable to pay down their credit cards, student loans, high-interest loans, and lastly their tax debts.

More than 100,000 Canadians of all ages filed for bankruptcy or insolvency in 2022.

But older generations, Hoyes said, have enjoyed many advantages.

Housing prices were more in step with wages. Tuition fees didn’t necessitate student loans, allowing graduates to enter the workforce and start saving and investing out of the gate, rather than having to service large debts for years after completing their education. 

Hoyes said those circumstances represented a “safety valve” that young people now can’t rely on. 

“Anything goes wrong like a pandemic, or you lose your job or you get sick or you get divorced and boom, there is no safety valve there,” he said. 

Filing for bankruptcy, he said, is an option to eliminate debts, but most people end up filing consumer proposals with the help of insolvency trustees like him to pay them down over time in manageable portions. 

“It becomes an affordable way to eliminate the debt, and that’s why we’re seeing more and more millennials resorting to consumer proposals,” he said. “They really have no other choice.”

Sandra Fry, a Winnipeg-based credit counsellor with the non-profit Credit Counselling Society, said many young people who seek alternatives to insolvency and bankruptcy are dealing with the shock of rising interest rates.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people out there are living on the edge of their affordability,” Fry said.

Fry said the Credit Counselling Society sees all types of people struggling financially with rising costs that are “really squeezing Canadians in general from all sides.”

The society helps people struggling with debt, negotiating with creditors to eliminate interest on loans, but also refers people in some situations to bankruptcy and insolvency trustees. 

Millennial clients she’s dealt with lately have often had variable interest rate mortgages, and rate hikes “caused huge strain on their budget because their payments just went up like crazy.”

Dave Locke, 31, lives with his wife in Coquitlam, B.C., east of Vancouver, and the couple sought Fry’s help when their mortgage payments jumped dramatically in the middle of a costly renovation. 

Locke, who works for a real estate brokerage, got into the housing market at a young age having worked in the oil and gas industry after high school.

He ended up buying a home in Coquitlam with his wife Tara, who works in labour relations, and the Bank of Canada’s rate hikes eventually saw their monthly mortgage payments jump 40 per cent. 

The couple had a construction loan with their bank to fund the renovations, and as interest rates climbed and the price of construction materials ballooned, Locke realized something had to give, even with their relatively high combined incomes. 

Insolvency or bankruptcy weren’t options for the couple because they wanted to keep their assets, but the Credit Counselling Society was able to work out a deal with their bank to eliminate interest on the renovation loan. 

“I’m still paying the full balance,” Locke said. “I’m just not paying any additional interest.”

Locke said the stress and stigma of debt is embarrassing, “but it’s just the way it goes.”

“You have to kind of swallow your pride,” he said. 

Grant Bazian, a licensed insolvency trustee and president of MNP Ltd. in Vancouver, said he’s seen many clients “keeping up with the Joneses,” but living beyond their means and getting stuck in a cycle of high interest debt from payday loans and credit cards, layered on top of “ridiculous” housing costs.

Bazian said there’s likely no “one magic bullet” to alleviate the debt woes of young people, many of whom are coming to see him racked with anxiety and other mental health issues. 

For accountant Hoyes back in Ontario, putting out the firm’s Joe Debtor study every year is a way of letting people know they’re not alone and to remind them of legal options to start anew financially. 

Hoyes said it would be a mistake to automatically blame millennials for their money trouble because “you cannot be blaming an entire generation for how the deck is stacked against them.”

“You don’t have to keep working two jobs for the next 20 years,” he said. “There are legal ways to eliminate a chunk of your debt, and yeah, it hurts your credit temporarily and it’s not something you want to do, but sometimes surgery is the answer.”  

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 26, 2023.

Adblock test (Why?)


Source link

Continue Reading


Sharp hike in federal alcohol excise duty will drive up price of booze, Ottawa distilleries and breweries say – Ottawa Citizen



Article content

For Ottawa distilleries and breweries, April 1 each year brings, rather than jokes or pranks, increases in the federal excise duty they must pay. This year, the especially steep hike is no laughing matter.

Advertisement 2

Article content

The alcohol excise duties imposed on manufacturers are adjusted annually based on inflation. But while booze businesses have coped in recent years with two-per-cent increases, this year’s duty is set to increase 6.3 per cent as of Saturday.

The result, Ottawa distilleries and breweries say, will be more expensive alcoholic beverages for consumers, including restaurants, bars and the general public, as manufacturers who are still coping with pandemic-induced pressures, are forced to recoup the latest additional expenses.

“It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that prices across the board have to go up. They have to,” says Marc Plante, a co-owner of Stray Dog Brewing Company in Orléans. “It’s not going to be, ‘Boom! Here comes the increase,’ and everyone’s going to see it. It will be slow. It will be subtle.”

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

Citing a press secretary for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Canada Revenue Agency figures, the Canadian Press reported that the increased federal excise tax works out to less than a penny on a can of beer and three cents on a 750-mL bottle of wine.

Still, Plante says the beers his micro-brewery makes will be more expensive “eventually,” although he can’t when the hike will happen or how big it will be. Stray Dog, which launched in 2017, has held its prices stable for several years, absorbing increased expenses and even debts incurred during the pandemic, Plante says.

He compares his company’s efforts to cope with COVID-19 to “a death by a thousand cuts.”

“Unfortunately, there’s only so much that small businesses like mine can absorb, and so we have to start passing some of those costs down to the consumers,” he says.

Advertisement 4

Article content

On a litre of wine, the excise duty rate is increasing to $0.731 from $0.688, or a little over four cents, according to figures provided by the Canada Revenue Agency. For a 750 ml bottle of wine, the increase would be closer to three cents.

Plante says he feels sorry for consumers. “The way inflation is right now, consumers are the ones getting the hits the hardest,” he says. Calling beer “one of the few pleasures in life,” and adds: “When you start pricing that out of people’s wallets, what do they have left?”

He adds that he feels worse for distilleries, who face a tougher tax regimen than do breweries and wineries.

“I would never get into that business,” he says.

The Ontario Spirits Tax is 61.5 per cent on the cost of the goods. Given that, Adam Brierley, founder of Ogham Craft Spirits in Kanata, says that if he tries to recoup the extra 25 cents of excise duty per bottle imposed this year, he’ll be taxed provincially for that effort and need to raise his prices again to break even.

Advertisement 5

Article content

“On the surface, we’re talking about 25 cents a bottle, but there are ripple effects,” Brierley says. “It’s just another thing that continues to kick the industry while it’s down.”

The increased excise duty hits distillers even as the costs of bottles, labels, grains, botanicals and more are getting more expensive, driving down profit margins, says Brierley, who launched Ogham in late 2021.

He figures that he will maintain the prices of some of his products until the current batch is sold, and then re-assess. The price of upcoming products will increase, he says, giving the example of Ogham’s maple eau de vie, currently priced at $60 but likely to rise by $5 or more due to the excise hike and the increased cost of maple syrup.

Advertisement 6

Article content

John Criswick, co-founder of Perth-based Top Shelf Distillers, says he intends to hold the line and not raise the price of Top Shelf’s products “for now.”

Still, he faults the increased excise duty for helping to increase liquor prices and, with them, inflation.

Brierley contends that while excise duty increases are pegged to inflation, he would have liked to have seen the federal government freeze the increase at two per cent, as in recent years.

Greg Lipin, a co-founder of North of 7 Distillery on St. Laurent Boulevard, says Canadian craft distillers as a whole want relief from the federal excise regimen, which applies equally to mega-distilleries and to comparatively much smaller operations such as theirs.

Advertisement 7

Article content

In the U.S., there’s one rate for craft distillers and another for bigger players, “which is what we’re looking for,” Lipin says.

During its decade of being in business, North of 7 has not changed its prices, preferring to absorb tax hikes, Lipin says.

“I haven’t entertained raising the prices of my products. But I will at some point, with these increases,” he says.

Rod Castro, the owner of 10Fourteen and Pubblico Eatery, two Wellington Street West restaurants, said the spike in the excise duty should not be surprising, as it follows on recent reports on the negative impact of alcohol and revised recommendations for alcohol consumption.

Still, he says: “As is usual, the government fails to really show they have a care or have a pulse for small- and medium-sized businesses and burden us as they do the consumer.”

  1. A longtime activist challenging anti-Black racism, Robin Browne's profile has grown alongside the boldness of his protest activities.

    Why full-time ‘Blacktivist’ Robin Browne fights

  2. Kerry Monaghan sits with her husband Patrick and her two children Jack and Charlotte. The children have autism and Patrick is an advocate for people with autism in Ontario.

    Fullerton critics say they felt ‘ghosted’ during her term as minister


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Join the Conversation

Advertisement 1

Adblock test (Why?)


Source link

Continue Reading


Twitter source code leaked online: legal filing




Some parts of Twitter’s source code — the fundamental computer code on which the social network runs — were leaked online, the social media company said in a legal filing on Sunday.

According to the legal document, filed with the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California, Twitter had asked GitHub, an internet hosting service for software development, to take down the code where it was posted. The platform complied and said the content had been disabled, according to the filing. Twitter also asked the court to identify the alleged infringer or infringers who posted Twitter’s source code on systems operated by GitHub without Twitter’s authorization.

Twitter noted in the filing that the postings infringe copyrights held by Twitter.


The leak creates more challenges for billionaire Elon Musk, who bought Twitter last October for US$44 billion and has had massive layoffs since then.

The news was first reported by the New York Times.


Source link

Continue Reading