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River Island Brings High-Street Fashion to Hudson’s Bay

High street retail in the U.K. has been hit hard in recent years, with Black Friday’s declining foot traffic being the latest such example of the problems that continue to pervade the industry. One such brand hailing from the high street is hoping to settle in greener pastures across the pond.

British fashion retailer River Island is debuting its women’s and men’s categories on The Bay, the Hudson Bay Company’s e-commerce site, and will bring new collections to select Hudson’s Bay stores in Canada in spring 2022.

“We are excited to be launching River Island through such a well-respected partner, The Bay,”  said Theodore Sheppard, River Island’s head of international development, in a statement. “Through this collaboration, we aim to bring River Island’s stand out fashion to a new group of customers in Canada.”

The assortment is available in sizes up to 18 and arrives as The Bay is rapidly expanding its “next-gen” offering for millennial and Gen Z shoppers, which the retailer says is its fastest-growing customer demographic. Over the summer, Hudson’s Bay made a splash when it launched Forever 21 products on TheBay.com as it continues to further its digital transformation after spinning off its e-commerce operations.

“The Bay’s assortment is evolving to deliver sought-after brands for style-driven Canadians,” Laura Janney, chief merchant at The Bay, said in a statement. “River Island connects attainable price points with an aspirational aesthetic and we know our younger customers will find on-trend and affordable pieces that suit their taste and lifestyle.”

For women, the River Island collection debuts with an array of elevated basics, including distressed denim, shackets, sweaters, and cozy loungewear. The assortment also offers party-ready statement pieces including asymmetrical cut-out jumpsuits and tops, fringed sequin mini-skirts and shirts and off-shoulder dresses, among other products.

The men’s wear collection includes elevated slim-fit cotton polos, quilted jackets, shepherd’s check sweaters and tees, joggers and a variety of denim styles and fits.

The men’s wear collection includes elevated slim-fit cotton polos, quilted jackets, shepherd’s check sweaters and tees, joggers and a variety of denim styles and fits.

Currently, there are more than 200 styles available to shop now on TheBay.com. Canadian consumers can get free shipping on orders of more than $35.

And in expanding into Canadian brick-and-mortar, River Island now has 85 more full-line Hudson’s Bay stores where it can introduce its products. The fashion retailer has 260 stores across the U.K. and Ireland, but online sales as of September account for approximately half its business. In the past two years, the company has closed 20 of its own stores. As the company builds out its online presence, it also has expanded its category ranges to include athleisure, intimate apparel and baby clothes.

Prior to the partnership, Canada and U.S.-based consumers could only shop from River Island through its own online site.

“I am pleased to say that, today, our business is in better shape than it was pre-pandemic. Our differentiated product ranges and pricing have huge appeal to a wide demographic, there is more buzz around the brand than there has been in many years, we are operating far more efficiently, and our digital offer goes from strength to strength,” River Island CEO Will Kernan said in a September statement. “I’m excited for the many growth opportunities ahead of us, driven by the strength of the River Island brand and supported by the efficiencies and discipline we have established across our operations.”

Bringing the brand to a new market also could benefit the company on a macro level. Through June, fashion stores had the most closures across the U.K., with 1,063 doors shuttered, according to PwC, citing information collected by the Local Data Company. Given how the extended lockdowns across the country impacted retailers, River Island has an opportunity to introduce its product to a newer audience, across both physical and digital channels.

And as for Hudson’s Bay, which is undergoing a makeover its own, the retailer gains a higher-end brand that could pique the curiosity of its current and first time shoppers.

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