Cross Border Shopping at the Toronto Eaton Centre

by | Nov 3, 2016 | Canada, Toronto Eaton Centre | 4 comments

Come shop with us

Warning: There are no UNESCO World Heritage Sites in this post


Our cross-border shopping expeditions are legendary and fun. Come with us if you like shopping ….. a lot of shopping …. and a cold beer at the end of day ….. but only after the stores are closed …. aaand we don’t stop for lunch …. it eats into shopping time.

Want to join us on our next trip?

We have epic tales of adventure in our hunt for the best bargains.

Sadly, our cross-border forays are on a hiatus. Our 75¢ dollar has eviscerated the savings.


Time to head to downtown Toronto to check out the bargains at The Eaton Centre.

Since most of the stores are foreign-owned, it is almost like cross-border shopping at home.

The Eaton Centre is Toronto’s most popular tourist attraction


The Eaton Centre was named after Eaton’s Department store, started in 1869 by Timothy Eaton, an Irish immigrant. He pioneered the  retail experience in his new department store. He set a price for his goods, eliminating bargaining. He made customer satisfaction his mission with the slogan, “Goods Satisfactory or Money Refunded.”

The success of Eaton’s revolutionize department store retailing in North America.

The first Eaton’s catalogue was introduced in 1884. The catalogue became a Canadian icon that brought big city shopping to everyone. Local stores lost their monopoly on purchasing, pricing and selection when anyone could order from the catalogue. Amazon and the tech revolution did not change the retail landscape: Eaton’s catalogue revolutionized the shopping experience more than a century earlier.

Over time, Eaton’s catalogue sales became less profitable. The last catalogue was released in 1976.


If you are of a certain age and grew up in Canada, you will remember the thrill of opening a new Eaton’s catalogue.


Alas, the next two generations of family management of Eaton’s could not adapt to a changing retail environment. Eaton’s went bankrupt in 1999, once again, proving the old adage:

Rags to Rags in Three Generations


The Eaton Centre is owned by Cadillac Fairview, the real estate subsidiary of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Fund. There are indications that Cadillac Fairview is trying to rename the Eaton Centre with its recent trademark application for the name “CF Toronto Centre.”

The Eaton Centre is set back from Yonge Street so sometime tourists have trouble finding the entrance. Confused tourists often ask me for directions. Do you think they are going to ask for directions to CF Toronto Centre? What’s that!

Would you vote for a name change:

The Eaton Centre or CF Toronto Centre?


The Eaton Centre opened in 1977, part of Toronto’s urban renewal strategy to revitalize the downtown core. It was an immediate success.

The Toronto Eaton Centre is the top shopping destination in North America.


If you look up when you are at the south end of the mall, you will see a large flock of Canada geese in flight, suspended from the glass ceiling. They are made of fibreglass. This sculpture was commissioned by the mall owners. I love the flock of geese but most people do not notice them.

One Christmas, the mall owners decided to bring more attention to the geese by decorating them with big red bows. The artist who made the sculpture was horrified. He thought that the bows looked ridiculous and harmed his reputation as an artist. He sued. He claimed that the bows infringed his moral rights under copyright legislation. He argued that an artist retains the ownership of moral rights in art even after the art is sold. He won and the bows were removed.

I think the bows would look pretty and my moral rights would not be offended.

Do you like the Eaton Centre?

A million people visit the Eaton Centre every week


The Galleria in Milan was the model for the Eaton Centre


The inspiration for the design of the Eaton Centre is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, Italy.

This is an snapshot of the Galleria from a trip a few years ago. It is a beautiful galleria and if I had known then that I would start a travel blog, I would have taken many more pictures …. need to return.

The Galleria was designed in 1861. This stunning shopping mall is enclosed with a glass ceiling and topped by a beautiful glass dome.

Milan is the fashion capital of the world. I strolled down some of the high-end fashion streets where all the luxury design houses have flagship stores. I tried to go into a shoe store. The door was locked! The store had a buzzer system for entry. I did not fit their image of their target market. They were right. I would never pay those prices for shoes. A woman behind me, who did not look like a tourist, got buzzed right in. I followed her. The shoes were prettier than a box of Pot of Gold chocolates.

Well, since I didn’t buy any shoes in Milan, I can check out the shoes at The Eaton Centre.


Time for some shoe shopping at Hudson’s Bay (The Bay)

The entrance to the Bay is across a pedestrian overpass at the south end of the Eaton Centre. Recently, it has been refurbished to make it into a grand entrance to both The Bay and Saks Fifth Avenue. This is a picture of the opening display when you enter The Bay.


Look at the Canada geese in the above picture: they are decorated with wreaths and red bows!

Have any moral rights been violated?

The Hudson’s Bay Company is the oldest company in North America


The Hudson’s Bay Company was incorporated in 1670. All the lands of the Hudson Bay watershed were deeded to the new company by Royal Charter. The Bay became the largest landowner in the world. The lands were surrendered in 1870 to become part of the new Dominion of Canada.

The Hudson’s Bay Company controlled the fur trade in North America. By the mid 1800’s, they sold everything from furs to homewares. They built department stores for their new target market: the shopper! The retail era was born. Hallelujah!

In 2008, The Bay was acquired by NRDE, an American private investment firm. The Bay is now the holding company that owns and controls Hudson’s Bay department stores; Home Outfitters; Lord & Taylor; and Saks Fifth Avenue.

If you want to buy shoes, the largest shoe department in Canada is a good place to shop.

Do you notice something odd about these models for the shoe department?

They are not wearing shoes!



Saks Fifth Avenue is taking a huge retail gamble in Canada


Is there room in Canada for another high-end department store? Saks has taken over a large section inside The Bay. Sometimes, I get confused as to whether I am in The Bay or Saks. I just look at the price tags to figure it out. The sticker shock in Saks is huge.


The shoe department in Saks is very pretty but with take-your-breath-away prices

Nordstrom has entered the Canadian market


Saks and Nordstrom are targeting the same high end shopper. Nordstrom just opened a couple of months ago at the north end of the Eaton Centre in the location where the iconic Eaton’s department store once reigned as the anchor store for the Eaton Centre.

Just next to the shoe department in Nordstrom’s, there is a Pop-In Shop selling vintage blue jeans.

I learned a new shopping vocabulary by reading the Pop-In sign. They are selling “broken-in” fabrics and “upcycled denim.” You can interpret this to mean that they are selling someone’s old jeans.


My closet is stuffed with broken-in fabrics. I need to upcycle my denim.

Here is a rack of upcycled denim in broken-in fabrics


These jeans are not new. They are old jeans with their original labels that have been patched up and double-branded. They carry their original label, mostly Levi’s. They have been up-cycled by Atelier & Repairs.


Look in the back of your closet.

Do you have any jeans that could be upcycled to look like this rack of jeans?

Look at the price on these upcycled jeans

NOW, have another look in the back of your closet to see if you have any old jeans that can be upclycled and up-priced to $405.

Do you remember button-fly jeans?

Was this an improvement on the zipper? If you threw them into the back of your closet, dig them out and upcycle them and up-price them to $275.


Would you pay $275 for button-fly jeans?

Would you wear button-fly jeans if they were free?

Perhaps you would like a vintage blue-jean jacket to go with your upcycled jeans.

In this case, upcycled means that it is missing a collar.


The upcycled jean jacket retails for $385.

These men are really excited about shopping in the new Nordstrom store


The new Nordstrom store is very pretty, very expensive and very crowded with shoppers. However, not everyone is excited.

I hope you enjoyed this cross-border shopping trip to the Eaton’s Centre more than the men in this picture.



Next week, we will stay in Toronto and return to the trail of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven with a visit to the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) for its new must-see exhibition:

Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, Van Gogh & more.

Selections from Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven are part of this special exhibit.

After the show wraps up in Toronto, it is moving to Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

Rose Ann MacGillivray

Rose Ann MacGillivray

World Heritage Traveller at
I love visiting World Heritage Sites, celebrating the world’s most fascinating places and cultures, and most of all, having fun on a trip. Join me on the road to fun and fascinating places. Thanks for reading – and remember to add your e-mail below for updates!
Rose Ann MacGillivray

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