U.S. retailer Marshalls played to its strengths by positioning its well-known shoe selection at the top of the escalator in its new store, which opened Thursday in Hillside Centre.
Langford’s Sue Ramsay picked out a pair of Nine West brand shoes for $59.99, saying, “I’m in shoe friggin’ heaven.”
Marshalls is the latest American retailer to open in Greater Victoria. It’s one of a number of U.S. companies, including Target and Nordstrom, heading north in recent years to take advantage of what they see as an under-served market.
U.S. powerhouse Target has found that Canada can be a challenging market as it faces off against home-grown Canadian Tire and Loblaws, plus the U.S.-based Walmart, already established in this country. Shoppers have pointed to sometimes bare shelves at Targets in Canada and prices they consider above those in the U.S.
Target opened its first Greater Victoria store in Tillicum shopping centre in spring 2013. This month, a second store was added in Hillside Centre. At the end of 2013, the company had 124 stores in Canada.
Marshalls is taking a more modest approach, with 27 stores in Canada and 11 more opening this year. It first opened in Toronto in 2011.
Thursday also saw Marshalls launch outlets in Regina, Winnipeg, and Moncton.
Its parent company, The TJX Companies, owns Winners and HomeSense, giving it an existing presence in this market.
Victoria’s 29,400-square-foot Marshalls is on the second floor in Hillside, facing North Dairy Road. Marshalls is part of the shopping centre’s $80-million redevelopment that saw it upgrade and expand to 590,000 square feet.
Cordia Lowe and Andrea Yee were first in the lineup at Marshalls in Hillside, arriving at 7:40 a.m. The first 300 customers received $10 gift cards.
Lorraine Bevan, of Victoria, selected a $150 Coach brand handbag. “I think it is a lot like Winners.”
Cheray Gannon and Jorja Komoroci, of Sidney, were disappointed that the store did not feature more larger clothing styles for women. Gannon, however, left with a pair of turquoise Keen sandals, paying $35.99 after using two gift cards.
Oliver Leitner, Marshalls’ head of human resources for Western Canada, said 40 staff were on the job Thursday. About 60 had been hired in all.
Between 250 and 350 people came through the doors as it opened, he said.
Marshalls stores, while also “off-price,” are different from Winners because they “tend to be more focused on family,” with more area devoted to childrens’ products, he said.
In Canada, Marshalls sells home decor merchandise, which is not offered in the U.S., Leitner said.