Canada’s 14th and largest Uniqlo opens in Montreal
Downtown Montreal — nearly empty since the beginning of the pandemic — is finally experiencing some excitement. The Japanese retailer Uniqlo opened its largest Canadian store in Montreal’s Eaton Centre on Friday.
Its entrance in Quebec’s apparel market did not go unnoticed. Between construction and security officers, hundreds started lining up before the opening at the corner of Ste-Catherine St. and Robert-Bourassa Blvd. The waiting time was between 40 minutes to an hour long.
Police officers weren’t too far away, overseeing the scene and enforcing social distancing.
The opening was eagerly awaited since the CEO of Uniqlo Canada, Yuichiro Kaneko, announced the brand’s arrival a year ago. The 32,000-square-foot store offers a wide range of clothes for men, women, and children, as well as a small selection of home products. Additionally, the Japanese retailer has a reading corner for children and will feature a flower shop display with the creations of Montreal floral design studio Bell Jar Botanicals until Nov. 15.
“I’ve been waiting for this opening for a long time now! Whenever I go to Toronto, I need to stop at an Uniqlo store. I’m used to ordering online but it’s always better when you can see the products before buying them,” said shopper Caroline Chicoine as she waited at the check-out line.
While opening during a pandemic demands more preparation, Uniqlo made sure to implement strict health and safety measures to create a safe shopping environment: plexiglass protective screens at the checkout counter, hand sanitizer available at the entrance and at cash registers, entrance and exit located on two different levels, customers having their temperature taken before entering. Masks were also mandatory in the lineup and only a limited number of people were allowed inside the store at a time.
As many as 115 employees work at the two-story Montreal location. They started preparing the opening the last week of August, receiving and organizing the merchandise as it arrived. Staff member Jessie Khov said she was eager to welcome the customers on opening day.
“Everyone is really proud of the hard work. We [started] preparing a month before the opening. Seeing the beginning of nothing to something like this today, it’s pretty special,” she said.
Moreover, the city hopes the excitement over the new retailer will also benefit local businesses, bringing Montrealers out of their homes to make a shopping trip with a few other stops along the way.
“We should come and shop. If we can’t [go in person], we can buy online. But how about we go direct[ly] to those stores. I think it’s a good way to support our small businesses,” said Mayor Valérie Plante, present at Uniqlo’s opening for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Up until now, the interest for the new store has been clear. It’s likely Downtown Montreal hasn’t been this alive since the pandemic forced people to work and study from home, reducing more than 90 per cent of the regular downtown traffic. People were seen daily lining up outside during the retailer’s first opening weekend.
Photos by Axelle Viramontes de la Torre