TVO Talks to Larry Rosen About Harry Rosen’s 60th Anniversary

by Harry Sheff

Larry RosenHarry Rosen, the Canadian luxury menswear retailer, is celebrating 60 years in business. TVOntario recently posted an excellent 20-minute interview with CEO Larry Rosen, who reveals some impressive facts about the menswear powerhouse: revenue is about $300 million a year across Harry Rosen’s 16 stores in Canada. It employs about 1,000 people and the average store is around 25,000 sq. ft. Rosen estimates their share of the luxury men’s market at 40% to 45%.

Harry Rosen, now in his 80s but still frequenting the selling floor, opened his first shop in a 500 sq. ft. space in Toronto in 1954. His son Larry, a lawyer, officially joined the business in 1985 but worked at the store through high school. Larry has been running the business for the last 14 years and has presided over some of its biggest growth. In the video below, Rosen introduces the newest Harry Rosen store, in Toronto’s Yorkdale Mall:

“A few years ago we grew 15 percent — that’s pretty exciting stuff, and we had a couple years like that. Last year we grew about 5 percent,” Rosen says in the TVO interview. He adds that Canada generally weathered the recession pretty well, with Harry Rosen suffering negative growth only one year — 2007. And the last time they’d had to close a store was about 20 years ago. “In the early ’90s we developed a strategy where we said we were only going to have big stores in the best locations.”

Asked about the so-called American invasion — the entry of Saks and Nordstrom into the Canadian market — Rosen is philosophical. “There’s a positive and a negative to to it,” he says. “We don’t need to be the best all-around retailer covering everything, we just have to be the best in anything related to menswear.”

The competition is coming from home, too: Holt Renfrew, the 9-store Canadian luxury retailer with a history that goes back nearly 200 years, will open a store focused on menswear right across the street from Harry Rosen’s Bloor Street flagship in Toronto — and down the street from its own men’s and women’s flagship.

In an article in Toronto’s Globe and Mail last week, Rosen said he’s budgeted $80 million over five years to expand some of the Harry Rosen stores (by 40 percent in some cases) and further develop e-commerce and customer service.

“This may sound a little cocky and Canadian,” he told the Globe and Mail, “but we’ve been serving the leaders of this country — the up and comers, the managers, the owners, the professionals, the entrepreneurs — for 60 years. I don’t imagine that one day they’re going to wake up and say, ‘My goodness, what’s missing from my life is an American department store experience.’ …We love competition. Bring it on, because we shine in that environment. Now that is definitely cocky and Canadian.”

Watch the full TVO interview below or on the TVOntario site.