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Tesla, flagship Lululemon store to revitalize Robson Street

2015 opening of major Nordstrom outlet shifting centre of downtown shopping strip east
Tesla Motors is planning to open its second Canadian showroom in April in a 1,500-square-foot space formerly occupied by an H20+ skin-care boutique, between Burrard and Hornby streets

Robson Street is regaining its swagger as Vancouver’s hip shopping strip with a Tesla Motors showroom and a flagship Lululemon store set to open near the world’s second-largest Victoria’s Secret, at Burrard Street.

A 12,000-square-foot Old Navy store opened at the corner of Granville and Robson streets last month, and renovations continue at Pacific Centre, between Granville and Howe streets, so Nordstrom Inc. (NYSE:JWN) can open its 230,000-square-foot department store in spring 2015.

Those retailers are adding a cachet to nearby blocks stretching west up Robson Street, where lease transactions have started to top $200 per square foot. Prime retail space on South Granville currently leases for approximately $125 per square foot.

Electric car maker Tesla has leased space to open its second Canadian showroom in April in a 1,500-square-foot space formerly occupied by an H20+ skin-care boutique, between Burrard and Hornby streets. Tesla opened its first Canadian showroom in Toronto’s posh Yorkdale Mall last year.

“By being in high-traffic areas, we’re able to pique the interest of people,” Tesla spokesman Patrick Jones told Business in Vancouver. “That launches us into a whole sales strategy which is more about educating consumers about electric vehicles rather than pushing a product on them.”

The trendy electric car maker (Nasdaq:TSLA) has attracted A-list celebrities Arnold Schwarzenegger and Morgan Freeman as customers and been a stock market darling.

Sales have consistently exceeded estimates, helping its share price more than triple this year despite a recent controversy about its batteries catching fire and complaints about glitches from former Tesla Roadster owner and movie star George Clooney.

“They will sell cars, but the Robson Street location is really meant to showcase their brand,” said Dig360 Consulting Ltd. retail analyst David Gray. “Victoria’s Secret is doing the same thing, although you can pay your rent a lot faster by selling a few Tesla cars than you can by selling bras.”

Tesla cars range in price from about $74,000 up to more than $133,000.

Lululemon, meanwhile, plans to build a flagship store across the street from the 30,000-square-foot, four-month-old Victoria’s Secret and the future Tesla store.

City of Vancouver staff confirmed to BIV that the yoga-wear giant (TSX:LLL; Nasdaq:LULU) has applied for a building permit for a site on the southeast corner of Burrard and Robson streets, where there is a Blenz coffee shop. The store will also include some of the empty space formerly occupied by New Balance.

More change will soon come on the southwest corner of Robson and Burrard streets, where female fashion retailer Bebe has opted not to renew its lease.

“The Bebe site is really the big story,” said CBRE senior vice-president Mario Negris. “Here we have one of the highest-profile locations on the street and all of a sudden it’s vacant – 4,000 square feet on the ground floor and a 1,000-square-foot mezzanine.” •