Walking through the Rideau Centre, you’d be hard pressed to find the same luxury retailers that you’d see in shopping centres in major cities like Toronto and Montreal. Brands like Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Versace are absent from the city centre, prompting high-end shoppers to venture outside of Ottawa for their luxury retail needs. This lack of availability begs the question—why aren’t designer brands setting up shop in the nation’s capital?
The answer is in the Ottawa consumer profile. Despite having the second highest family income among Ontario cities, the region’s population is not shopping for high-end pieces, but rather preferring department stores like Nordstrom and Simons, or discount retailers like H&M and Zara. The percentage of shoppers who are interested in luxury retail are simply not a large enough percentage of Ottawa’s moderate population to make a worthwhile investment for high end brands like Louis Vuitton.
The retail strategy in Ottawa malls is to appeal to the average consumer, who falls in between the discount and the high end shoppers and tends to shop at well known and reasonably priced brands—and may venture into Nordstrom for their occasional luxury shopping needs. “What we really try to do is offer best-in-class retailers at both ends of the retail spectrum,” says Cindy VanBuskirk, the Rideau Centre’s general manager.