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Aug 10, 2017

Joe Fresh founder to HBC: 'Stay the course'

Canadian brands sniffing south of the border

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The founder of Joe Fresh believes Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC.TO) should stave off activist calls to transition to a real estate focus and “stay the course” in retail.

“I would say stick to it,” Joe Mimran, Gibraltar Growth Corp. chairman and the founder of Club Monaco and Joe Fresh, told BNN on Thursday. “Obviously they can pare back their portfolio in the same way that many other retailers are doing it but I think they should stay the course.”

He said the company’s brand is strong enough and its retail strategy sound enough to survive in the fading realm of department stores.

“Hudson’s Bay Company is a 300-400-year-old brand with huge opportunity in and of itself and I do think they’re committed. They’re doing a lot of the right things, they’re becoming a true omni-channel player as well and they do have some of the most coveted brands,” Mimran said.

HBC has been the target of activist investor Land & Buildings, whose founder Jonathan Litt believes the company should exit Europe and focus primarily on the Canadian market. Litt also called for the company to sell some of its key store locations and become “a real estate company, full stop.”



“Hudson’s Bay should migrate back to its roots as a Canadian retailer,” Litt wrote in a July 31 letter to shareholders. “The Saks Fifth Avenue banner would likely be in high demand from potential buyers, allowing the Company to focus on the Canadian market it has long dominated.”

Mimran argues that approach would be a “radical” shift away from the company’s roots.

“It is extremely radical because the best locations that they have are the most valuable locations that they have. So, they want to take Saks Fifth Avenue on 5th Avenue and create that into a real estate play. If you take your best asset and try to make it into a real estate play then you really are no longer a retailer.”

Mimran added that it’s a move some observers are already anticipating, even though he thinks the company has a chance to survive in retail.

“Many investors are moving this from their retail portfolio into their real estate portfolio and you’re seeing that more and more and people are talking about it from a real estate perspective,” he said. “I would think that if there’s any chance of department stores surviving, it’s going to be HBC.”