Blog Posts by Marc Weisblott

  • Will Sears department stores survive the Canadian invasion of other U.S. chains?

    Sears Canada President and CEO Dene Rogers.Sears Canada President and CEO Dene Rogers.Sears has been told to shape up or prepare to ship out of the Canadian market.

    The chain came under fire this week after a report from Dejardins Securities flagged showed how its market share has declined precipitously since 2005.

    With competition for its hardware and appliance departments from Home Depot, Lowe's and Rona and Canadian Tire's purchase of the Foranzi Group's sporting goods and apparel business, fewer product categories remain available for Sears Canada to dominate as before.

    And a further threat is expected to come from the other American stores that have recently planned northern expansions.

    The potential disruption comes some 60 years after Sears first crossed the border. Now, the likes of Target and J. Crew have confirmed their first Canadian locations, with Macy's rumoured to follow.

    Compared to competitors which have promised a specific vision for their new markets, the Chicago-based parent company has been criticized for heeding little attention to Canada.

    The

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  • Road tolls might be an inevitability for drivers in Toronto and Montreal

    The ability to drive on just about every road in Canada without paying tolls is considered by many to be as sacred as health care.

    However, as gridlock threatens to choke economic prosperity, and 20th century infrastructure continues to wear down, the calls have gotten louder to start charging motorists on some existing routes.

    The most recent of those arguments was put forth by the Toronto Board of Trade. A new report has claimed that infrastructure underfunding now costs the regional economy $6 billion a year.

    But the toll road idea wasn't welcomed by city councillor Doug Ford, advisor to his mayor brother Rob, who is a staunch opponent of pretty much anything perceived as an inconvenience to drivers.

    Rather, the Fords believe that tunnels built and maintained by the private sector are the way of the future. There's also Hwy. 407, an electronic toll road which allows for a smoother ride across the Greater Toronto Area which has generally been considered a success since it opened in

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  • MORNING BREW: Michael Coren becomes Sun News host; personal debt levels measured

    Welcome to Morning Brew, our daily roundup of early-bird news:

    • Michael Coren has joined the lineup of hosts on Sun News Network, with a new nightly program scheduled to debut in August; the announcement coincided with word of a record number of complaints about the channel to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. (Marketwire)

    • Canadians who carry debt have an average outstanding balance of $6,938 on credit cards and $28,753 on their line of credit, according to a Harris/Decima poll conducted on behalf of Scotiabank, but 56 per cent find their debt manageable and 27 per cent have none at all. (CNW)

    • Burger King has announced the first three of 150 new "20/20" restaurant locations along Hwy. 401 in Ontario, which will incorporate technologies like a Duke Flexible Batch Broiler, in order to maximize cooking flexibility while reducing energy costs. (Marketwire)

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  • Miss Universe Canada gets little attention despite record ratings for Miss USA

    At the recent Miss USA pageant only two of 51 state beauty queens believed evolution should be taught in schools, including winner Alyssa Campanella of California. More than a week of discussion over this fact has followed.

    When it came to the Miss Universe Canada competition the following Saturday in Toronto, though, the only advance media attention related to the fact that Ashleigh Clark of Saskatoon had a prominent tattoo on her back.

    But there was no body art to be seen on 20-year-old Chelsae Durocher of Tecumseh, Ont., a student at the nearby University of Windsor who won the opportunity to represent Canada at the global pageant in Sao Paulo, Brazil in September.

    And with record TV ratings for the Donald Trump-owned Miss USA, whose winner will also compete for the Miss Universe crown, it would seem pageants are ready for a resurgence.

    Nonetheless, attention for Miss Universe Canada was limited. The Windsor Star even needed two extra days to notice a local resident will spend the

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  • Free outdoor movies replace drive-ins as summer night tradition in Canada

    Bill Murray is supposedly fond of sneaking up on people in public, then leaving them with the words, "No one will ever believe you."

    And, if the organizers of an annual outdoor movie series have their way that will happen sometime this summer along the Halifax waterfront.

    "Summer of Murray," part of the annual alFresco Film Festo put on each year by the Atlantic Film Festival, is part of a growing trend across the country to show free features at dusk.

    A weekly screening of a comedy starring the rumpled "Saturday Night Live" legend is scheduled to kick off July 22 with the 1979 Canadian classic "Meatballs." Organizers hope to get Bill himself to make a surprise appearance sometime before the final movie, "Rushmore," is shown on Aug. 26.

    While drive-ins were once considered a rite of passage across the continent, the new wave of screenings under the stars have taken advantage of newer technologies, along with an increased spirit of urban renewal.

    Meanwhile, the first floating movie

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  • MORNING BREW: Cashless society anticipated by Canadians; retailer websites beat social media

    Welcome to Morning Brew, our daily roundup of early-bird news:

    • Canadians are comfortable with a cashless future, according to a Leger Marketing study conducted on behalf of PayPal Canada, which found that 56 per cent would be happy to shop with a digital wallet, and 34 per cent would rather carry a mobile phone than pocket change. (CNW)

    • The majority of Canadian consumers still prefer retailer websites over social media, according to KubasPrimedia's Major Market Retail Report, which found that 70 per cent of those researching a purchase on line continue to visit a central source of information. (Marketwire)

    • Eight different Canadiana hats have been created by Kate Middleton by Environmental Defence, to help draw attention to the ecological issues that currently confront the country, including one designed in honour of the flock of ducks that landed in the tar sands. (CNW)

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  • HMV and EMI sales end once-crucial link between Canadian and U.K. music scenes

    While the newest royal couple prepares to tour Canada, an entirely different historical connection to the U.K. has started to slip away with the sale of the 121 stores owned by troubled music retailer HMV.

    And next on the auction block, after about a decade of corporate turmoil, will be 114-year-old British record company EMI.

    While one brand was once a subsidiary of the other, HMV Group became independent in 2002, right around the time speculation started to circulate about EMI's sale to a more dominant international player.

    Commonwealth links once helped to put both at the forefront of the Canadian music industry. Capitol Records, which launched in Canada in 1949, got a boost after it was bought by the U.K. company in 1955.

    The deal helped satisfy the nostalgic demand for British music among families who moved to Canada after the Second World War. And the earliest efforts of the Beatles, which Capitol initially assumed would flop in the U.S., were enthusiastically repackaged for

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  • Subway sandwich fanatic Jared Fogle searches for successor in Canada

    Jared Fogle recently received the star treatment as Subway launched the search to find his Canadian equivalent.

    More than a dozen years after he was discovered with crediting the sandwiches for a 245-pound weight loss in an article published in his Indiana University newspaper, the fast-food chain has returned to promoting itself as the conduit for a healthier lifestyle.

    The new Commit to Fit ambassador search, which Fogle promoted in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Halifax and Toronto, has promised $10,000 in cash and $500 in gift cards to two people with the best personal photos or videos of Jared-like transformations.

    Online voters will be asked to look for entrants who achieved a healthier look, adopted a regular fitness routine, followed a specific nutrition plan and succeeded in stress management. But they also have to show this was achieved by eating at Subway.

    Fogle has earned considerably more than $10,000 in his career as the face, and waist, of Subway in North

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  • MORNING BREW: HMV sold to restructuring specalist; Walmart to expand smaller stores

    Welcome to Morning Brew, our daily roundup of early-bird news:

    • HMV has confirmed the sale of its 121 Canadian stores for £2.05 million to U.K. restructuring firm Hilco, along with a plan to extend the period in which physical music and videos can be sold, along with the introduction of new product categories. (CMW)

    • Walmart has confirmed plans to introduce its first smaller-format Canadian store, called "Urban 90," in east Toronto next January, which was announced along with the purchase of 39 former Zellers stores that weren't deemed suitable for Target Canada. (Toronto Star)

    • Half of the newcomers who have been in Canada for one year or less feel under-employed, according to a recent Environics poll conducted for the Royal Bank of Canada, which also found one-third who immigrated six-to-ten years ago still feel that way. (CNW)

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  • First J. Crew store set to open at Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto

    Seven months after apparel retailer J. Crew announced it would be opening across Canada, the first location is confirmed for the Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto.

    With its U.S. stores frequented by tourists for the past two decades and Michelle Obama often sporting the relatively affordable higher-end fashions, the announcement of its arrival was met with widespread enthusiasm.

    For retailers that have operated in Canada for decades, though, this hype has shed light on their failure to appeal to consumers eager to be seduced by J. Crew. But the largest companies already started to make changes.

    Sears, which has struggled in the marketplace, said this week it recruited Loblaw veteran Calvin McDonald as its new chief executive. The store previously announced a deal with "Top Model" personality Jay Manuel to develop a retro-inspired line, Attitude, which will include wide-legged trousers and pencil skirts.

    Similar moves have been made in recent years at the Bay, whose president and CEO

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