Ottawa isn't rich enough for Prada, Louis Vuitton, experts say

Ottawa retailers focus on 'aspirational luxury' as middle class diminishes

Ottawa does not have enough very rich people to attract stores like Louis Vuitton or Prada, but stores like Nordstrom, Kate Spade and the brand new Simons suit the region's "aspirational luxury" tastes, according to retail experts.

The retail market is a rapidly shifting beast as stores like Jacob, Mexx, Smart Set, Sony and Holt Renfrew shut down stores in Ottawa.

You can include Sears, Zellers and Target among the department stores that have also left.

Ottawa shoppers spoke out about a need for new stores like H&M and Simons, which until recently only existed in nearby Montreal.

As of Thursday, both have come to the national capital region.

There is money to be spent at stores like these, plus other higher end stores like Nordstrom, according to independent retail analyst Barry Nabatian.

The thing is residents of the capital region have been opening their wallets in other areas due to unmet retail desires.

"In our estimation, the national capital region residents spend at least two billion dollars for luxury items outside of this area," Nabatian said.

"The reason has been because we haven't had enough [luxury stores here]."

Affluent, but not enough rich to afford Prada

To meet those needs, Rideau Centre added Kate Spade with Nordstrom, in addition to Tiffany & Co. and Michael Kors. Three of those stores nestle together in one corner of the mall.

Mall management wants shoppers to think twice about spending in big cities like New York and Toronto, believing the market in Ottawa can sustain high end stores.

However, the mall's general manager said the population density is not there to bring Prada or Louis Vuitton to the capital region.

"Ottawa is a very affluent community," said Cindy VanBuskirk, Rideau Centre's GM.

"But we don't have the critical mass at that high end that you would find in a larger population."

VanBuskirk said the mall goes beyond trying to appease the bigger spenders.

The goal, after extensive research, is to appeal to those spenders and those looking for the best "discount" stores such as Forever 21, H&M and Zara.

"What we really try to do is offer best-in-class retailers at both ends of the retail spectrum," she said.

"If you try to become everything to everyone, that's a dangerous place to be. … There's really no middle in retail anymore."