Hill’s Dry Goods hearkens back to an era when shopping was pleasurable.
The Hill family has a rich history with retail in Vancouver, starting with their first dry goods store in the heart of Kerrisdale in the 1940s.
When the 1970s rolled around, Ross Hill was hanging around Hill’s of Kerrisdale, a dry goods shop run by his father and uncle.
As teenagers, Ross and his brother Brian would stock shelves.
“That’s all we kind of did, work in the retail business – and our lives revolved around it,” recalls Ross. “It’s the only job I’ve ever had.”
While the Hill name might sound familiar to some in Vancouver, a younger generation knows them as the family behind Aritzia and Blue Ruby Jewellery.
It was perfect timing when Ross came home to B.C. after studying commerce at Queen’s University.
Oakridge Centre was just expanding and the owners were approaching local retailers around Vancouver, including Hill’s, to open up new concept shops at the “fancy” mall.
By 1998, the three Hill siblings had carved out their own retail identities from their father James’s strong foundation.
Brian had Aritzia, while Ross and his sister Nancy opened their first Blue Ruby Jewellery store in Oakridge.
According to Ross, his brother has an eye for design and a “knack for the women’s side of the business,” which makes him successful with Aritzia.
James remained a daily fixture at Hill’s of Kerrisdale until about 10 years ago – even after Ross had been passed the reins. Ross admires the fact his father, a Prairie boy, was self-taught and managed to build a retail name for the family.
“You kind of learn that your customers are the most important part of the business,” says Ross, of what his father’s legacy has taught him.
These days the Hills are going up against online giants, while continuing to build brick and mortars, including a new store at Park Royal this spring.
“Any business needs a competitive edge,” says Ross, a partner, along with Nancy, in Hill’s Dry Goods.
“Nowadays with the internet the game is changing, so the question is: What is the relationship between online sales and brick and mortar sales? And is there a future for brick and mortar sales?”
Ross is confident the traditional shopping mall concept will survive – with one major condition.
“I think there’s always going to be a place for a brick and mortar store but you have to create an experience that gives someone a motivation to actually go into your store,” says Ross.
He praises Park Royal management on the extensive transformation the mall has undergone recently.
“I think they’ve done a nice job,” says Ross.
“Park Royal has always been appealing. For years we always talked about opening up a Hill’s store on the North Shore. We’ve always had a lot of customers from the North Shore who have ventured over to Kerrisdale to shop with us.”
In the middle of March, Hill’s Dry Goods will set up a 2,000-square-foot shop at Park Royal South, inside the mall.
There will also be a Blue Ruby boutique within the new Hill’s store at Park Royal.
It will be the third Hill’s Dry Goods location to date, with the other two shops located on Vancouver’s West Side.
The new outpost basks in a historical esthetic that pays homage to Hill’s early retail days.
At Park Royal, the plan is to seamlessly walk the line between historical classic and modern with the design.
Hill’s Dry Goods is described as offering a distinctly curated selection of the most desirable brands and accessories in women’s fashion, with a target demographic of 25-45 year olds.
“That being said there’s lots of things that a 55- or 65-year-old woman can find in the store,” promises Ross.
Adidas, AG, Birkenstock, Brunette the Label, Calvin Klein, Citizens of Humanity, Levi’s, and Rag & Bone are a sampling of the brands that can be found at Hill’s Dry Goods.
Customers can expect new product soon, as the women’s buying team at Hill’s is heading to Paris shortly to scope out the latest fashion trends.
“Expansion is an exciting part of the business because it enables you to add exciting new things to the brand mix,” says Ross.