Maison Birks is shutting the doors to its Government Street jewelry store March 26 after operating for 74 years in Victoria.
The Montreal-based retailer announced its withdrawal from Victoria last month, a move that followed the December closure of the company over 100-year-old location in Saskatoon.
The decision was made following a recent surge in online sales and renovations to Birks’ Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal locations, Birks Group CEO Jean-Christophe Bedos said in an email to Black Press Media. Birks clientele in Victoria is invited to shop online at MaisonBirks.com or at Vancouver’s flagship store on West Hastings Street, he said.
“We continue to invest in both our physical stores and our e-commerce services.”
Jeff Bray, executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, said, “it’s always a bit sad when an iconic store that’s been a part of downtown decides to move or close.”
Neither he nor Bedos could say who would be moving into the soon vacant corner space at 1023 Government St.
Bray is optimistic, however, that Birks’ departure marks a transitionary milestone for the neighbourhood, given the recent growth of downtown residential spaces.
“It used to be that downtown Victoria was office workers and tourists … now you’ve got 10,000-plus people living in the core. This is why you’re seeing a change in your retail, food and beverage services. We’re catering to an after 5 p.m. crowd that maybe wasn’t here 15 years ago,” he said.
In the last decade, downtown building vacancies have been cut nearly in half, from 13 per cent in 2013 to seven per cent in 2021, Bray added. Continued residential development and approved buildings such as the 11-storey Telus Ocean at the corner of Douglas and Humboldt streets spell further optimism for the growth of downtown, he said.
“Tech has emerged as leading the downtown sector. These (businesses) tend to have younger employees much more interested in experiential, food and beverage retail. You’re just seeing that change in who’s walking through the front door, which is why you’re seeing more independent, medium-sized businesses.”
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