Pulse of Canada

Are department stores a thing of the past?

Pulse of Canada

Sears Canada announced Tuesday that it would shutter five key stores in Toronto — including its flagship Eaton Centre location — raising new questions about the company's attempts to revive its fledgling brand.

Sears has long been one of Canada's largest retail merchants, but has been on a closing spree lately. Earlier this year, Sears closed five other stores in Canada, including its flagship in downtown Vancouver. All told, the closures should provide the retailer with $800 million through selling leases back to their landlords.

[ Full story: Sears Canada to close Eaton Centre store and four others ]

Traditional department stores have been under siege in Canada for some time. Hudson's Bay recently went through a rebranding, sold off the majority of its Zellers leases but recently agreed in principle to purchase high-end Saks Inc. for $2.4 billion. American retailer Target opened its first stores this year, Walmart continues to thrive, and Nordstrom plans to open its first store in Canada next year.

At the same time, online shopping continue to grow in Canada — an area department stores like Sears and Hudson's Bay have been slow to adopt. Statistics Canada reported Monday that online retail orders increased 24 per cent between 2010 and 2012, to a total of $18.9 billion. According to Forrester Research, the bulk of online sales are being done through Amazon, eBay, iTunes and Best Buy, which are all U.S.-based operations.

Eaton's, once Canada's largest department store chain that at its peak employed 70,000 people, went bankrupt back in 1999.

So we ask you: Do the recent Sears closures signal the death of traditional department stores in Canada?

Have your say in the comments area below.

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