Coworking spaces open in HBC & Staples Canada to make space more productive

Credit: Hudson’s Bay

Credit: Hudson’s Bay

By Emily McCullough and Tricia McKinnon

Mall developers and retailers around the world are experimenting with new ways to drive traffic and make their space more productive. In the Canadian market similar to other markets consumers are starting to get used to the steady stream of pop up concepts that operators believe will create a mix of excitement and novelty that will bring customers back into stores.  On the other end of the spectrum retailers continue to capitalize on the growth of the gig economy and the trend for contractors and entrepreneurs to need flexible inexpensive space. Yorkdale Mall, owned by Oxford Properties, as well as Staples and Hudson’s Bay (HBC) are just a few of the companies in the retail sector that have transitioned space into new uses in an effort to stay relevant and profitable. Take a look at what these companies have been up to.

1. Ever thought about working in a mall? Well, now you can. WeWork is partnering with Hudson’s Bay to provide coworking spaces. Coworking spaces have just been added to the top-two levels of Hudson’s Bay’s retail space in downtown Toronto.  Speaking about the initiative HBC’s CEO Helena Foulkes said: “from a financial perspective, the financial returns that we’ll get from those two floors will be higher than what we were generating.”  Private offices in the coworking space within the HBC tower start at $1,110 a month and hot desks, which are open workspaces in a common area, start at $550 month.  The space has a number of amenities including phone booths, conference rooms, high speed internet, cleaning services as well as on-site staff.  

2. In January of this year Staples Canada transitioned 4,500 sq. ft. of space in one of its locations in downtown Toronto into a coworking space. The space is called Staples Studio Coworking and it features printing, marketing services including web design,  a dedicated space for events and guest speakers called Spotlight as well as a locally-run café called Mos Mos Coffee.  Designer and Entrepreneur Joe Mimram, was hired to help turn the pre-existing space into a beautiful new coworking space.  Similar to WeWork, fees vary depending on the type of services used with a dedicated desk starting at $299 per month and a private office starting at $1,999 a month.  Staples is hoping that those fees will make up for a 20% decrease in merchandise space that was used to create the new space.  Speaking about the space David Boone, Chief Executive Officer of Staples Canada, said: "we've designed this new store with community in mind.  With Staples Studio Coworking, a café, the Solution Shop and thousands of new products, this redesigned location is a working and learning hub. We want to bring people together who are focused on personal and professional growth, to be an inspiring, affordable place for entrepreneurs, businesses and students to work, meet and collaborate."

3. In 2017 Yorkdale mall unveiled CONCEPT which is an open concept permanent space which allows brands to pop-up for a few months to sell their products.  The pop-up space is located right by the subway entrance to the mall in a high traffic area. This is a beneficial location for the pop-ups who may not be able to afford a permanent location in the mall and it is also a great way to attract new customers since the mall continually rotates new brands in and out of the space. According to Yorkdale the space presents an ever changing rotation of brands that focus on “new tastes, trends and technology”.  

Last summer Yorkdale launched Concept x Flawless that featured 50 innovative Canadian female founded brands within its pop-up space over a two-month period.  Over the course of two months, every two weeks the pop-up transitioned to a new theme and a new set of brands.