Menswear Buyer Article | June 2014

Condomania. It’s a new word I’ve invented. And no it’s nothing to do with prophylactics. I can’t think of a better word to describe the construction boom that is currently affecting Toronto.

I was there last week to visit my store there. Long overdue; I hadn’t been for three years. In that time the city has been invaded by cranes, hoardings and frothily named developments. Needless to say, these ‘executive style’ apartments are being snapped up off plan, frequently by China or Singapore based investors.

Sound familiar? Yes, it all smacks of  a London style property boom. The key differences are that in Toronto no one of note lives in a ‘flat’; they’re all ‘condos’ or ‘lofts’. Occasionally apartments. Don’t ask. I have no idea which is which, and that’s after spending five days there.

Another common thread is the Open House. As here, in a booming property market, why bother to make individual appointments when you can herd all the prospective buyers through in a morning? I was roped in to such a viewing by my friend, and there was much hostile eye contact with the other would be purchasers. Great fun.

Down on Queen Street West, my store is trading well. We had a great customer shopping evening, with a very good four piece band, who even invented a Simon Carter jingle. Maybe because the prices are higher in Toronto, or maybe because we have smaller distribution than here, there’s an almost fanatical following to the brand. It’s seen as cool luxury and it is always very rewarding to meet the customers. I love their enthusiasm.

It’s not all rosy there. There’s been a churn of retailers since I was last in Toronto. In winter especially, the Mall exercises a big draw. Having said that, intriguingly, the mall owners are now trying to attract smaller niche retailers, as there customers tell them they’re tired of the big players. A glimmer of hope.

The point is that in our globally connected world, we all face the same issues. Concerns of an over heated property market; foreign buyers hoarding flats-sorry, condos; the dominance of the shopping centre.

But on thing also remains the same, and that’s enthusiasm for different, well made product from brands with a clear identity. I can’t wait to go back.

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