McNally Robinson blames Shops at Don Mills for Toronto store failure
Earlier this week, we reported on over 30 stores that didn’t make it through 2009. The list included a handful of indie bookstores, such as McNally Robinson, which filed for bankruptcy in December and closed its newly opened Shops at Don Mills location. But unlike its compatriots, who’ve pointed to difficulties resulting from the economic downturn, chain stores, on-line retailers, increasing rents and e-readers, McNally is laying the blame for the closure largely on the Shops’ developer, Cadillac Fairview.
According to founder Paul McNally, Cadillac Fairview didn’t do enough to promote the centre, which is modelled on an American outdoor shopping villa. He complained to the Winnipeg Free Press that it failed to secure enough tenants and provide adequate signage to draw customers, griping, “One would think that Canada’s biggest retail developer might have done a better job.”
“[Even] Indigo would be crazy to move in [to the Shops],” Tory McNally, the company’s director of operations, told Quill and Quire. But Maureen Atkinson from the retail consulting firm J.C. Williams Group dismisses the idea that signage would have made much difference. Signs would cause “a five per cent difference in [McNally’s] performance,” she said in the Globe and Mail. “Not a 50 per cent difference.”
Though about 20 per cent of the storefronts are still vacant (the Shops opened in the spring of 2009), not all the tenants are doing poorly. The Globe points to such successes as Mark McEwan’s gourmet grocery store (the chef plans to open a restaurant there in June), Anthropologie and Barbuti Fine Men’s Clothing, which moved to Don Mills from Bayview Village. The manager of the Shops said retailers are “achieving results well in excess of their expectations.”
The Shops’ true test may be this winter, when shoppers accustomed to the cozy confines of indoor malls will be faced with the choice of braving the cold at the Shops for Banana Republic and BCBG or driving to Bayview Village or Yorkdale instead.
• Downturn wallops McNally [Winnipeg Free Press]
• McNally Robinson looks ahead to brighter days [Quill and Quire]
• Bookstore’s closing not mall’s last chapter [Globe and Mail]
21 thoughts on “McNally Robinson blames Shops at Don Mills for Toronto store failure”
Sorry, but the McNally’s are just bitter. I live 5 minutes from Shops and go there frequently. As an avid reader, I was so excited to see a HUGE bookstore at the Shops. Then as time went on, I discovered that they were way more expensive than Chapters/Indigo. I think this had everything to do with their demise. They in fact had really great positioning within the Shops but how can you beat free library books (from the Don Mills library literally across the street!), and cheap books from amazon and Indigo online? And also now with Kobo? Great idea, I would have loved more competition, but just didn’t work out for the consumer.
I have one more thing to say about Shops at Don Mills: the person that laid out the parking should be fired. Period. Worst parking EVER!!!!!
I agree with Don Mills Resident. I live about 5 minutes walking distance from the Shops and my husband and I were looking forward to having a bookstore in the neighbourhood. My husband especially, since he is an avid reader. When we went there for the first time, he was very disappointed with the selection of books (not enough on computing) compared to Amazon and Chapters. He was predicting the store’s demise. I will miss Prairie Ink though — I enjoyed their weekend brunch. It will be interesting to see who will fill that space.
My best friend worked there. She said the owners were really abusive and bitter towards most of the staff – especially females. I don’t think they realized what amazing people they had working for them for minimum wage. Those people never would have worked there if there wasn’t a recession going on! She said it had nothing to do with Kindle or bad signage or anything – just really shoddy management. I feel sooooo bad for the mall right now. It’s not the mall’s fault that you had no business plan. Stop blaming them! Oh, and Murale next door BETTER not go out of business.
Toronto Life still lists this bookstore as the best bookstore for 2009. It only opened in the spring of 2009. Toronto Life sure can’t pick them.
This 5 second video sums up McNally Robinson’s ill-fated Ontario expansion nicely: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ytCEuuW2_A
I totally agree about the parking at the Shops – it is totally asinine. It was only by accident, not any kind of signage that I found the lovely covered parking garage. It was a cold day when I was there and I elected to go to another indoor mall instead of strolling around simply because it was too darn cold and I had to walk a long way to the parking garage if I ventured too far from where I had parked.
I really enjoyed the restaurant but it was a little pricey and the atmosphere was a bit like a cafeteria. The book store was ok but laid out odd; I think if you visited it a bit more often and got used to the layout it would have been fine. I found that the staff was not that knowledgeable about the books they had in stock. But I definitely would have returned because I love books.
I found McNally’s to be pricey and the selection was not good. I did utilize the magazine reservation feature that they offered but did not buy much else.
As far as Cadillac Fairview’s responsibilities, I agree that they are not promoting the Shops to their fullest potential to draw more people/stores. McNally’s was one of the few stores that I could actually afford! We need more retailers that can offer mid-range products to a expanded range of shoppers. The “beautiful people” will not keep the shops alive with the occasional $1000 purchase. We do not want a repeat of the “Eaton’s Store effect”.
I was excited when McNally’s opened at the shops. I wasn’t excited to see their high prices and lack of variety unlike some of their competitors. I think that if a Chapters were to open instead it would do much better.
Jcrew should take over the space. Do you hear me Cadillac Fairview? They would rock the house there. Right now the only store that is causing me to drive there from East York is Anthropologie (or Mecca as I like to refer to it). Spanner and Talbots or Tibi (or whatever it is) are just underwhelming me.
This mall is nice–in the summer. Who, in their right mind, would shop outdoors in -10 degree weather? Stupidity. This isn’t California.
McNally is right about one thing though; there was not enough marketing for this mall. A lot of people in Toronto still don’t know of its existence.
My husband and I thought we would frequent McNally Robinson and the Shops at Don Mills, but quickly became underwhelmed. The bookstore itself looked nice, but the selection was not great, and the prices were higher than our local Book City. We also found the staff less than helpful and not very friendly. As a couple that both worked at Indigo during university, we know that a little customer service goes a long way.
The shops themselves are a really nice idea – for Florida. Central ice-rink aside (has that even happened?), there’s not much draw during the winter months. I mostly feel bad for the seniors that used to frequent the old mall. Not sure they care to sit in snooty Glow all day.
I’ve lived in (downtown) Toronto for 16 years and hadn’t heard of McNally Robinson. Well, maybe there was a radio commercial or newspaper ad I might have seen, it wasn’t completely alien to me. Even if I thought the name was vaguely familiar, I wouldn’t remember what type of business it was. If they did advertise, it wasn’t to a broad audience.
Now that I have a car, I could make the trip to a unique store and have visited the Shops at Don Mills once, only because a friend wished to visit Anthropologie. We did find the layout confusing, the parking confusing, but it was nice in the fall. It seemed like a concept that wasn’t carried out well. We asked a stranger for directions to the store and were worried we parked in a spot reserved for emergency vehicles, but were confused by the combination of wall signage saying ‘no’ and parking meters saying ‘yes’.
I think the developers, designers are certainly responsible for partial blame, but McNally Robinson seems like a dinosaur that didn’t keep up with the times. It’s also unfortunate to hear they were unkind to staff. The staff would have to deal with the public and that’s enough.
My beef with bookstores (I’m talking to you, Indigo) is that they advertise a reasonable price online, then charge a much higher price inside the store. So really, what incentive is there for me to shop there?
WB has a point – I only shop online for books – the prices are better, shipping is free (with a minimum purchase), and you do not have to deal with unknowledgeable or unfriendly store clerks!
When I pointed out the online vs. in-store price difference, the attitude was “this is how it is”!
I wanted very badly for McNally Robinson at the Shops to do well, but their outreach was horrible, especially online. They had a crew of bloggers and tweeters at their disposal and they ignored them. That location needed strong WOM. Of all the publishers, authors, readers I’ve heard bemoan the demise of this location, every last one didn’t actually frequent the store. Outdoor shopping would have been the last nail in the coffin, but, bottom line, McR didn’t address the people who could have helped draw loyal consumers into their store.
I had heard of McNallys but my problem was where it was. I am no where hear DonMills and have plenty of bookstores downtown why would I go there. I had hoped they would locate somewhere accessible. I barely afford indigos as it is but they don’t have everything. Perhaps they should have done more investigating before moving there. Staff well typical really of todays society why I don’t work in the public sector. Sexism is rampant even today and EI does nothing about it. You can complain but it is your word against them and most management if they are male can get away with sexist comments and abuse. If the Canadian government would tell companies not to promote this kind of abuse we wouldn’t have it. It is everywhere and even in Ontario in this modern society it exists and is tolerated. Women have to put up with it because no one will listen or do anything about it as long as it isn’t physical we can’t prove it. 2010 and we still have to tolerate lower wages and cannot get management positions because of it. I wonder how many more centuries Canada will spend in the dark ages.
Not all males are like this but in big companies and ones from out west are very much antiquated in thought and business perhaps that is where you failed.
I find Toronto Life always has something negative to write about the Shops At Don Mills. Why does a magazine feel the need fixate and focus so much on Shops At Don Mills? It’s repetitive and annoying. Any business is responsible for their own advertising. Period. To write a story about McNally Robinson passing blame, or buck, is just another negative written column geared towards the Shops At Don Mills in a twisted and turned way. Go pick on something else.
I, too, was excited by the concept of the McNally Robinson store. But one visit explained why they did not succeed.
As others have mentioned, their prices were higher than other book stores, with little in the way of “special promotions”. They gifts and clothing were expensive, and the restaurant was very poorly designed and managed. Only one person I know of who tried the restaurant liked it. Everyone else had a bad experience, from poor service to poor food at a high price. The restaurant was not properly prepared for the opening, as evidenced by the inexperienced and poorly trained staff. The owners must take responsibility for their own mistakes – all the advertising in the world won’t correct these problems.
While the bookstore itself was not anything fabulous, I did think the restaurant was terrific! The food was fresh, interesting, not greasy and NOT the over-priced snobby restaurants that are the only other choice at Don Mills! Unless, of course, you want Jack Astor’s where there is an issue with over-stimulation of the senses!
They need some help! Find some middle ground restaurants, and fix the parking, especially for the seniors…. I’ve already put a call into the councillor…. anybody notice how the accessible parking spots don’t have cutaways/ramps to get up to the sidewalks or medians next to them?! huh? Not an easy outing for my father….
I think I’m agreeing with the general consensus here. I live pretty close to the Shops, and was quite excited to know that a BIG bookstore was going to be part of everything. As geeky as it may sound, sometimes I like to wander in a bookstore with no purchase in mind and then just find something that I like (the head over to Coach or Guess hahaha)..anyway, back to the point…I was very disappointed with this store! It is grossly more expensive than Chapters/Indigo, not nearly the selection, and I don’t think that one person approached me to see if I could find what I needed or was looking for etc. It wasn’t the Shops boys and girls, I think you need to look a little closer to home.
The mall is beautiful but only for the wealthy. An outdoor mall in Toronto is ludicrous at best. Hardly anyone is walking there when it rains, snows or when it’s very hot or very cold. I live 5 minutes from there and when I walk through it on a nice day, all you see are people walking. The shops have no shoppers – just the restaurants and LCBO are busy. A ridiculous waste for the area. You want to be busy – open up some mid-riced stores and enclose it. WHo in their right mind would think of an outdoor mall in this climate. I saw the same design in the Troy area of Detroit. The staff at one of the busiest restaurants there said that it isn’t busy on bad weather days and the stores are empty. Same in Chicago. People go to indoor malls here. We don’t live in Arizona, Florida or California. ANd people in this area don’t have money growing in the backyard.
I quite liked the bookstore and the restaurant upstairs.
I liked the layout of the store.
I did find the staff very knowledgeable.
I learned it was not easy for some books to get purchased on specific requests. I wonder if there just may have been a problem with suppliers.
Also McNally Robinson had special events – authors come in to sign books which was fabulous.
The big, big problems I have with that whole complex are the parking and the surroundings. The trees are not sufficient – I hate being exposed to the sun in summer – there is no shading along the walkways and in the winter – it is not pleasant walking – and I feel awful for the parking valets outside of McEwan’s who have no shelter in which to stand while waiting for a car to park – ridiculous. ANd the parking is less than adequate: I wonder if there should not be someone in there directing cars. Some of the drivers are just terrible.
Comments are closed.