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Since 1866

Jas. A. Ogilvy & Sons catalogue, 1906. Photo courtesy of Ogilvy

Ogilvy, now Holt Renfrew Ogilvy, is  a Montreal luxury department store that sells ready-to-wear, shoes, accessories and cosmetics for men and women. It offers a wide variety of high-end international brands, such as Louis Vuitton, Ermenegildo Zegna, Tiffany & Co. and Longchamp, along with some Canadian brands like Canada Goose and Marie Saint Pierre.

Thanks to its spectacular holiday window displays and bagpiper that played daily at lunchtime, the store became a St. Catherine Street institution, even among those who perhaps could not afford to shop there.

The history of Ogilvy began in 1866, when Scotsman James Angus Ogilvy built his first store at the corner of Bonaventure and Mountain streets. Primarily a fabric shop, it sold canvas and cotton and wool fabrics. The company’s early years were marked by several moves: in 1877, to the corner of St. Antoine and Mountain, and then in 1896 to the northeast corner of St. Catherine and Mountain. The architect of the building at the latter address was David Ogilvy, the founder’s son. In 1912, the store moved again, across the street to the northwest corner of St. Catherine and Mountain, where it still stood as of 2018. Once again, architect David Ogilvy designed the building, which was originally four storeys high.

The store was sold in 1927. The following year, its new owner, J. Aird Nesbitt, built a fifth floor to accommodate a concert hall. This venue hosted numerous recitals and concerts, notably those of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. To celebrate Ogilvy’s Scottish origins, J. Aird Nesbitt introduced the Ogilvy clan tartan as a signature feature on the store’s shopping bags and packaging. In 1945, he hired a bagpiper to walk through the entire store every day at lunchtime, playing his instrument, a tradition that persisted until September 2017. In 1947, Ogilvy inaugurated its iconic mechanical holiday window displays of stuffed animals, designed by German toy manufacturer Steiff. These displays were donated to the McCord Museum in 2018 to ensure their preservation.

“The V Neckline”, Ogilvy window display, Montreal, about 1940. Photo courtesy of Ogilvy

During the 1960s, Ogilvy opened several branches in shopping malls, notably at Fairview Pointe Claire and Galeries d’Anjou. In 1985, Ogilvy was sold to Equidev, a development group that carried out a major renovation project to modernize the downtown building.

The new concept, unveiled in 1987, offered a “shop in shop” format whereby the various brands manage their own mini-boutiques, an approach that subsequently became quite common in luxury department stores.

Ogilvy was then sold several times. The store was bought by the Standard Life Insurance Company in 1994, by Pyxis Real Estate Equities Inc. in 2000, by a Quebec consortium in 2010, and by the Selfridges Group, the owner of London’s legendary Selfridges store and Canada’s Holt Renfrew chain, in 2011.

In 2013, it was announced that the Holt Renfrew store on Sherbrooke Street would merge with Ogilvy in 2017, a date that was later pushed back to 2020.

The two brands will be brought together in the Ogilvy building, which will see its area rise from 15,000 to 23,000 square metres. The new luxury shopping destination, named Holt Renfrew Ogilvy, will include shops like Chanel, Dior, Fendi, Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Prada. It will be the largest Holt Renfrew store in Canada. The project involves an investment of $100 million. As of 2018, 129 people worked at the Ogilvy store.

Sources External link

Fournier, Marie-Eve. « Fusion d’Ogilvy et de Holt Renfrew : pas avant 2020 » maPresse, La Presse Inc., 16 novembre 2017, External link

« Holt Renfrew Ogilvy to Redefine the Luxury Experience in Montreal » Holt Renfrew, Holt, Renfrew & Co., Limited, 15 novembre 2017, External link

« Le Musée McCord hérite des vitrines des fêtes iconiques d’Ogilvy léguées par Holt Renfrew Ogilvy » Musée McCord, Musée McCord, 21 mars 2018, External link

« Ogilvy (department store) » Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 13 décembre 2018, External link

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Michelle Comeau, Dicomode


Madeleine Goubau, Contributor

Last edited on
01/02/2019 Suggest an edit