Bench closure highlights Canadian retail market's struggles

Bench closure highlights Canadian retail market's struggles

Bench closure highlights Canadian retail market

Clothing retail giant Bench has announced that it will shut down its 24 physical stores across Canada, citing a greater need to focus on its e-commerce arm.

“We are closing our bricks-and-mortar stores to focus more on our e-commerce business as well as our key wholesale customers,” according to Lawrence Routtenberg, co-president of Freemark Apparel Brands, which holds a “strategic partnership” with Bench.

In an email to BNN Bloomberg earlier this week, Routtenberg stated that the schedule of closures and the number of personnel affected have yet to be determined.

Routtenberg cited a sea change in consumer behaviour as the major factor in this decision.

“As you can appreciate, traditional brick-and-mortar retail has had its challenges over the last decade.”

Indeed, despite an apaprent renaissance in the asset class, several retailers have ended their Canadian operations over the last few months, including Sears, Target, and Forever 21.

E-commerce is expected to remain a dominant market force in the Canadian commercial segment for the foreseeable future, a recent study by commercial property brokerage JLL suggested.

“The biggest takeaway is that Canadian consumers are leveraging both physical and online stores,” JLL retail research manager Heli Brecailo told the Vancouver Sun last month.

At the same time, the impact of e-commerce should not be underestimated.

“The penetration of smartphones in Canada is really high, the internet penetration rate is really high. It’s not surprising that Canadians are shopping online.”

As much as 57% of the JLL respondents said that they shop from online retailers, and more than 30% stated that they buy from both online and physical stores.