Bonnie of The Bay

She’s smart, fearless and charismatic. Will that be enough to revive the iconic retailer?

by Anne Kingston

Bonnie of The BayBonnie Brooks surveys the huge oil portraits of Hudson’s Bay Co. governors lining the company’s boardroom in downtown Toronto with amusement. “I will say that the guys from the 1600s are better looking,” she says. “Did you see Charles II in the hall? Stunning. Hair to here. Gorgeous.”

With her blond bob, grey Alexander McQueen sweater dress, ballsy black Yves Saint Laurent boots, and willingness to playfully tweak tradition, Brooks offers a stylish foil to the sober gallery of white men in dark suits who trace the company’s lineage back to 1670. Brooks’s surprise appointment as president and CEO of the Bay last August, months after the company was bought by American real estate mogul Richard Baker, is trail-blazing on a few counts. One, she’s the first woman to hold the position; and two, the arrival of the internationally respected 35-year retail veteran provided—for the first time since the HBC traded pelts—the glimmer of hope that the Bay could be, to use that most overused of Canadian sobriquets, “world-class.”

Of course, that was back in those halcyon days before the economy cratered and “70 per cent off” became retail wallpaper. Even then, the prospect of revitalizing the Bay was daunting. Mid-market department stores are on a death watch: so many have folded, Statistics Canada stopped measuring them as a category. “It’s not a viable format,” says Toronto retail analyst John Williams. “They’re squeezed between value merchants—the WalMarts and Winners—on one end, and luxury stores and specialty boutiques on the other. The Bay, whose 92 stores range in size from 1,000 to 100,000 sq. feet and in appearance from shabby to not-shabby, has been subject to multiple failed makeovers over the past decade, helmed by numbers guys who failed to realize that pleasing customers connects to the bottom line. Merchandising was a mish-mash, product inconsistent, sales staff infuriatingly elusive.

Brooks’s return to Canada last September after 11 years in Hong Kong, where she rose to the position of president of Lane Crawford Joyce Group, a conglomerate that runs some 500 stores in nine Asian countries, was greeted with hurrahs. “If anyone can change the Bay, she’s the person,” says designer Glenn Pushelberg of Toronto-based design duo Yabu Pushelberg, who has known Brooks since her days at Holt Renfrew in the 1980s. “There are very few people who could make it relevant today.”

Certainly few have more impressive high-end retail CVs than Brooks, whose experience charts the vicissitudes and limitations of the Canadian industry. A precocious mercantile talent manifested itself early when she was growing up in London, Ont. “I was making and selling Barbie doll clothes—which maybe we shouldn’t tell Mattel—when I was nine years old,” she says. When the other students in her Grade 9 home economics class were sewing gingham aprons, Brooks whipped up a suede suit. In 1973, she snagged a sales job at London’s Biba boutique, then the place in the world to shop, after a post-university European trek. Back in Canada, she landed at Fairweather, part of the now-defunct Dylex chain, as a copywriter and stylist. She rose up company ranks before joining Holt Renfrew in 1981, where again she proved to be a high achiever, running merchandising and PR.

In 1990, she returned to Dylex to recast its Town and Country chain for an older, more affluent customer. Her plan to offer $49 Armani-esque blouses and Donna Karan-quality stockings for $5 a pair was never market-tested. Three months after the relaunch, 15 months after her arrival, the company was shuttered. In 1994, she went to Flare magazine as editor-in-chief, where she punched up the format, before returning to Holts. Though her responsibilities were impressive, the challenges weren’t there for someone who likes to test her comfort zone. In 1987, she decamped to Asia after she was offered a job as senior VP merchandising and marketing at Hong Kong’s then-dowager department store Lane Crawford, owned by the fabulously rich Peter Woo. Pushelberg recalls her early days in Asia as difficult. “She was in shell shock,” he says. “Business is done so differently in Asia—it’s patriarchal, it’s old-fashioned. In the beginning she didn’t understand any of that. She was a bull in a china shop, and I wondered ‘Oh my gosh, is she going to last?’ But the beauty of Bonnie is that she’s an adapter. When something doesn’t work, she’ll find a way of making it work.”

Brooks flourished. Pacific Rim fashion mavens owe her big time for securing rights to dozens of coveted brands, among them Stella McCartney, Chloé, Marc Jacobs and Jimmy Choo. With Yabu Pushelberg, she created luxe retail theatre within the Lane Crawford stores. The flagship International Finance Centre store garnered buzz in style circles for its martini lounge, chill-out CD bar, and art installations by Hirotoshi Sawada and Dennis Lin. Interior Design magazine voted Lane Crawford 2008 retailer of the year. “It was known as the better-than-Barneys store,” Brooks says proudly.

Last summer, Richard Baker, president and CEO of New York-based NRDC Equity Partners, called Brooks to see if she’d work her magic on the Bay. Baker, the son of strip-mall magnate Robert Baker, had catapulted onto the U.S. retail scene, buying U.S. department store chain Lord & Taylor, once-fabulous luxury retailer Fortunoff, and Linens ’n Things. Baker, who sat on the HBC board, bought HBC for $1.1 billion after owner Jerry Zucker’s sudden death last April, believing it offered great synergies. There was talk of turning some Bay locations into Lord & Taylors and selling Fortunoff product through the stores. Baker sought out top-notch merchants, hiring Jeff Sherman, a former executive at Polo Ralph Lauren, as HBC’s president and CEO.

Sherman had worked with Brooks when she secured rights to Polo’s Club Monaco brand for Lane Crawford. Baker, who had met Brooks at a dinner, says his one video-conference meeting with her wowed him. “She was absolutely perfect,” he says.

Brooks tends to provoke those sorts of accolades. “Bonnie’s one of my favourite people on the planet,” says her friend, Fashion Television host Jeanne Beker. “She’s fearless.” Former colleagues are besotted. “We’d all love to work with her,” says David Riddiford, CEO of the Irish department store Arnotts, who worked with Brooks at Lane Crawford. “Bonnie’s whole essence is about communication. She is a fabulous networker and fabulous negotiator and she believes in bringing people onside.” Pushelberg says Brooks defies stereotypes of the driven female executive: “She’s not a ‘tough broad.’ She’s endearing and she’s engaging and she compels you to do things; it’s her nature.”

It was time to come home, Brooks says. She missed her family. She’d also reached a professional impasse, having successfully mentored Peter Woo’s daughter Jennifer Woo, who’d been named president of Lane Crawford stores in 2003. U.S. retailer Barneys New York talked to her about spearheading its Asian operations, and it would have been a good fit, Brooks says. But she’d have been pitted against her former colleagues. Returning to Canada was always in her plan, says Riddiford. “She often talked about going back as a university governor but that wouldn’t have satisfied Bonnie. She’s always on the move—learning to play mah-jong, or learning the piano. She can’t sit down and read a book like the rest of us.”

Brooks says she talked to Sherman and was shown a detailed five-year plan before making her decision. She didn’t visit the stores, fearing the task ahead would seem Sisyphean. Some might see that as denial. Brooks says it was necessary: “I knew if I did that it might alter my plan. It would probably serve me and the company better for me to retain a fresh attitude toward the business.”

The executives’ shared vision is to make the Bay the dominant Canadian department store by improving the quality of its brands, its stores and its service, or as Sherman refers to it, “the customer experience.” When Brooks came on board, the assignment was likened to turning the Queen Mary around. Five months later, the Titanic might seem the more apt nautical analogy. The economic downturn has dampened sales of clothing and furniture—department stores’ core businesses. HBC laid off 1,000 workers in February, more than one-third from the Bay. NRDC Equity Partners’ other retail assets have tanked: Linens ’n Things went into bankruptcy last year, Fortunoff filed for bankruptcy last month. In January, NRDC provided Lord & Taylor with a US$60-million cash injection, the Bay with US$70 million. Operations were centralized. Sherman took responsibility for all of the retail banners, including Lord & Taylor. Meanwhile, competitors lie in wait. Shoppers Drug Mart, for one, is aggressively nipping at the Bay’s No. 1 position in cosmetics.

Yet, sitting on one of the tattered chairs that surround HBC’s long boardroom table, Brooks appears as buoyant as her name. “We’re having the best year of anyone in North America,” she says. “We were up comparative stores in January and well up in February. One could say ‘Did you have a bad year last year or is this part of the management team or is it good luck?’ ” She laughs. “But to be up in this size of business at this moment in time is really unique.”

She does feel the pressure, she says: “On one hand, I feel we can ride a big wave of enthusiasm; on the other, it’s a little daunting.” People are rooting for the Bay to improve, and not only because these are times in which failure hurts everyone. A desire exists for a good quality, full-service department store. “If I could, I’d do one-stop shopping,” says Beker. “Who’s got time to go to 15 stores?” Designer Brian Gluckstein, who sells his GlucksteinHome line at the Bay, believes the format has the potential to provide “relevant, exciting shopping experiences,” citing France’s Bon Marché, Galleries Lafayette, and Harvey Nichols as examples.

The chain’s vendors were thrilled with the arrival of a chief executive whose vision extends beyond Bay Days and scratch ’n save coupons. “The Bay has not been run by a merchant for a very long time,” says Canadian House & Home publisher Lynda Reeves, who sells the House & Home line there. Gluckstein sees Brooks’s luxury pedigree as a benefit, and was impressed by Brooks’ curiosity. “She’s amazing,” he says. “She’s smart, she’s engaging, she’s interesting and interested.”

Brooks arrival has stoked staff, Reeves reports: “They’re so excited to have someone who loves retail, who wants to be on the floor, who understands the customer.”

Of course, as is the case with anyone as detail-oriented and high-achieving, Brooks “can be as frustrating as hell,” says Riddiford. “She can overwhelm you; she has so many ideas and so many strategies. You’re swept along in this typhoon of enthusiasm and innovation. There can be a trail of disruption and confusion, but at the end of the day she gets what she wants. She created things that are beautiful.”

George Yabu and Pushelberg say they were horrified when Brooks told them she was going to the Bay. “We said. ‘Oh gosh, Bonnie, what have you done?’ ” says Pushelberg. But before long, they too were swept up. “We had all worked together on these high-end exclusive stores and now there’s a big behemoth of a Canadian icon and how can you make it engaging and make it specifically Canadian, which would be kind of groovy,” says Yabu. “She’s got enormous challenges but if her bosses give her the scope she could make something pretty amazing, world-class.”

Just how much scope is possible in the current climate is the big question. Brooks has excelled in businesses run by rich owners with deep pockets. But the crash of Baker’s other retail holdings raises uncertainty about his ability to fund HBC. New York retail analyst Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, sees shades of Robert Campeau, another high-flying real estate mogul who drove headlong into retail, only to have it all crash down. He sees the recent US$60-million cash injection into Lord & Taylor as a red flag. It’s not clear if Hudson’s Bay Co. is tied into Lord & Taylor’s loan agreements, Davidowitz says. “There might not be a way to close the Bay and keep Lord & Taylor or close Lord & Taylor and keep the Bay.”

Baker says the five-year plan is still viable. “We believe that Canada can certainly afford to have one well-run national department store,” he says. “In the U.S., there are 10.”

Brooks says the US$70 million injected in HBC in the past two months puts the Bay in a much better position than many quality retail businesses. “We are still on the vendor’s positive lists, which is much better than many of our U.S. neighbours.”

Since her return, Brooks has been hoovering up information. She enthuses about the data provided by Bain & Company, even though the presence of retail consultants often bodes ill. She’s still trying to figure out the Bay’s shape-shifting target customer: “It’s different by store type and market,” she says. She’s willing to pick anyone’s brain, even turning the tables on a Maclean’s interviewer: “Do you shop at the Bay?” she asks, taking notes.

Brooks’s strategy will be outlined to the HBC board in April. Shoppers will see changes in the stores by late spring, she says. “Brand by brand, piece by piece, we’ll build our share back.” Her priority has been to review merchandise: many brands will be dropped, others added. Brooks has told vendors that she supports a “buy Canadian” philosophy and also that’s she’s seeking exclusive international labels. When asked about the rumour she’s in talks with Britain’s Topshop, she laughs. “We’re talking to a lot of interesting people,” she says. Which means there might be some retail drama if Brooks begins poaching brands sold at Holt Renfrew.

The economy has forced a re-evaluation of the overall plan, she says, before giving it positive spin: “But it also has possibly sped up the process by encouraging us to become a nimble operator. We need to build and funds will be somewhat limited over the next year or two, and that will give us a little more time to determine where we want to go.” Yet she knows there’s an urgent need to spend on stores and on service. “Oh, we’re very aware of that,” she laughs, quick to note that the layoffs focused on the backroom and didn’t touch the floor staff.

She has spent the day talking to designers and architects. She has talked to Yabu Pushelberg but their involvement has yet to be determined. Creating retail theatre is the linchpin in Brooks’s MO, says Riddiford: “A lot of people try to improve profitability by cutting costs and dumbing down, but Bonnie’s view is the opposite—you have to drive sales and drive customers and you’ve got to excite them. She knows that big-space stores have to have excitement, whatever the level of market.”

Brooks’s biggest challenge right now, says Sherman, is to hold tight: “I think her greatest challenge is being able to be patient because she knows exactly where she wants to take the business.” This will be difficult for Brooks, says Beker, who observes that her friend throws herself into whatever she does “150 per cent. She lives it and breathes it,” she says. So enmeshed is Brooks with her new assignment that she’s reading Peter Newman’s three-volume history of the Hudson’s Bay Company and realigning her own closet. Her fall 2008 wardrobe, with its pieces from McQueen and Prada, was purchased at Lane Crawford; spring 2009 will come from the Bay: “I have my eye on the new floral collection from Isaac Mizrahi for Liz Claiborne. Have you seen it?” she asks, ever the enthusiastic retailer. “It’s in all the U.S. and Canadian fashion mags for spring. Fantastic! Even Oprah is wearing it!” Yes, if anybody can change the Bay, it’s Bonnie Brooks. Which means that if she doesn’t, no one ever will.




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Bonnie of The Bay

  1. someone has to stop her, I can't listen to her on another commercial, either she's a man in drag or smokes too much !

    • omg! i know.. i hate her commercials so much. I want to kill myself everytime i hear one. They are so long and boring..

    • OMG!!! I am SO relieved I'm not the only one! That voice is SO anoying,I immediately change channel whenever I hear that "Hi I'm Bonnie Broo…"!! I don't even listen long enogh to listen to her last name. Get OFF THE AIR!!!!

    • Exactly!! I have to switch channel everytime I hear her voice on the radio!!

  2. It is funny that I found this because I have been feeling so strongly about these horrific commercials and can't help but think they are doing anything but reviving the Bay. The raspy voice, the monotonic delivery and the ridiculous length of time alloted for things like a french fry maker has me immediately switch the radio channel whenever I hear it come on. I understand that sometimes it can be effective to have the leader of a company appear in commercials but this is absolutely backfiring and it makes me want to avoid the Bay at all costs. I hope they do focus groups and poll customers so that they can change their focus and build a more appealing marketing strategy.

    • I'm totally and completely with you… I prefer to buy at Walmart, at least they have a cheap advertisement for a cheap price.

  3. I will not set foot in The Bay until those commercials cease airing! She sounds so condescending and arrogant not to mention all the other qualities that are noted by the other posters. I turn off the radio when she comes on…..stop the needless torture! I may then actually visit and shop at The Bay again.

    • what do you think of the “Friends With Benefits” weekend? I don’t believe the ‘Homewrecker’ sound will bring many wives in.

  4. that is why I came on line…I had to see what this person looked like…she sounds like a 85 year old chain smoker… much better looking and younger than I expected!! She does has an interesting background but those commercials must go!!!!

    • I disagree, I like the commercials.

    • lol! that is the same reason why I googled her too!
      Back in 2005 I loved the Bay. 75% of my wardrobe and accessories was bought at the Bay but now that they have gone high end, I just window shop!
      Her commcercial about having Bay Days only twice a year will be the best in sales? The Bay Days sucked this year!
      The Bay is going down and that will be a very sad day.

  5. I actually like the commercials! :( I find them focused on one particular item – that according to the commercial isn't available at any other store. It gives you all the details you'd want to know about an item… almost like window shopping, but with far more info. After hearing her commercials I've often wanted to visit the bay. I think the timing is perfect too – just when we're wondering, "what am I going to get mom for Christmas this year" you hear her voice describing a wrap as "It's bold, timeless and under $50". **ding-ding-ding**

    • i agree with you. i have actually met bonnie brooks and not only is she beautiful and intelligent but she is the one person who can save the company. google her and look at her credentials. she is an awesome woman. o.k. , her voice is a little raspy and she could benefit from a voice coach bit those commercials are pulling people into the stores. jd

  6. hahahaha I totally agree with Christine S. She does sound like she smoked a pack of cigaretes before going on air. hahaha :)

  7. I emailed the media department for the Bay and asked for them to stop airing commercials with Bonnie Brooks. PLEASE do the same and maybe they will stop airing them!!!

  8. i thought the same thing. i had to see what she looked like. I thought maybe 105 yrs old and a face like a used baseball mit. I dont know weather I am attracted to the old hag or repulsed. I suppose it may be the I am so repulsed I am curious senerio!!!

  9. I had to laugh. I thought she was an 80 year old chain smoker too and just wanted to see what she looked like. God I hate those radio commercials.

  10. I'm sorry everyone that you have such a negative feeling towards Bonnie and the company's effort to revive The Bay… I love the commericals and have no issues to the tone or sound of her voice. Trust me it sound allot better than some of the radio personalities on the radio and some of the tunes they play! I'm intrigued with the announcements of articles that are available at The Bay. Great gift ideas for occasions, holidays to come and of course for myself. I love The Bay… always did and will continue to love it! A great Canadian institute with a Canadian runnning it! How many other companies can you say that about! She has my support and vote! You go Girl!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Christina you dolt, no one has "negative feeling towards Bonnie and the company's effort to revive The Bay" …. THEY DON'T LIKE HER COMMERCIALS and her ANNOYING VOICE on EVERY STATION in EVERY MARKET being played up to 20 times a day!!!!!

    • you must have a worse voice than hers or you must be masochistic. this woman has a vocal cords problem due to cigarettes . she should quit smoking and focus on something else . yuck !

    • Have another cigarette Bonnie …… great company….horrible add…. cannot stand the sound of her voice…as soon as it airs I turn the channel so I don't have to listen to it. I am sure that she is charismatic, and smart…good for her, She may be a great leader, but get a different kind of commercial. This is killing you quicker than anything you could possibly imagine.!!!

      • be thankful Bonnie doesnt smoke a pipe and wear army boots, wish she had bigger eyes to go with that blond hair, and no mention of a beau or is her boss after her in a few yrs.

    • I agree, I used to hate her commercials too until one day I she was like “Bay Days are on and we have a ton of coats from cool brands at 50% off!” I went and bought two better-name brand coats (Calvin Klein for me, Dockers for my husband). Not only are they the best coats either of us have ever had in terms of warmth, fit and attractiveness (who knew a warm winter jacket could still give you a waist!) but together they were only $250. After that experience I now listen to her religiously whenever she comes on. 

  11. Please get rid of her voice and go back to the friendly voices we are customed to hearning. She is continuing do damage to the Bay.

  12. Pretty lady.
    Brutal voice.

  13. I too, don't like the sound of her voice! Gone are the days when a raspy smoker's voice sounded sexy. Now it just sounds like lung cancer is around the corner. I don't enjoy her commercials and I usually turn off the radio until I think she's done, then I turn it back on. I don't shop at the Bay anyway. Their stuff is too expensive.

  14. what is the name of the mascara with the big brush that bonnie brooks promotes on the radio? anyone pick up the name?

  15. I like the commercials …she's definately memorable and seems to be doing some great things for the Bay

  16. It's Dior Mascara

  17. Thanks for the info Stacey.

  18. Shut this commercial RIGHT NOW as no one will ever go to the Bay again. Pleassssssssssssssssssssse

    • THIS IS THE OWNER OF THE HUDSONS BAY COMPANY, MY NAME IS CHRISTOPHER HUGO JOHNSON, NICE TO HERE YOUR OPINION.

  19. I always get a headache each time I listen to this commercial. I have to switch to another chanel until this ….. is over.

  20. All of the negative posters are exactly RIGHT!
    I, too, couldn't take the commercials anymore and wanted to see what the old hag sounding Bonnie Brooks looked like and was surprised that she was much younger and nicer looking than her voice made her out to be. Maybe do TV commercials and dub in someone else's voice?

  21. Looks like the HBC marketing department is all over this board trying to do damage control…. Please stop trying to convince us. Keep the content, but hire some proper voice talent. Bonnie's voice and delivery is god awful. Every year previously I have thought The HBC ads to be best in class. Each one hitting the right note for the banner it was representing. I loved The Bay ads – they said 'It's Christmas, get shopping here for something special". Yes, Bonnie has a truly impressive background, I have no doubt that she is a firecracker at what she does and just what the old boys club at The Bay needed to shake things up. However, unless you are deaf, you can not deny that she sounds like an old chain smoking ex-Clinique counter girl. Bonnie, the voice commercials have to go – make them special for me again.

  22. Stick to what you know best, Bonnie. Your talent is NOT as an on-air celebrity. I'm not sure if it's arrogance clouding your judgement or poor decisions by your head of marketing, but I'm with a lot of the other people here who refuse to set foot in your store until you're off the air. A 95 year old chain smoking voice may have worked back in the 60's but it's sickening in today's day and age. I was once a solid customer of the Bay. Maybe some day I'll return. Please go back to balanced scorecards and profit/loss statements where you can make a difference!

    • HEY JOEL, THIS IS THE OWNER OF THE HUDSONS BAY COMPANY, MY NAME IS CHRISTOPHER HUGO JOHNSON, I DONT APOLOGIZE TO ANYONE. AND ESPECIALY NOT TO YOU.

  23. Totally agree on the voice comments…I am going to drive myself off the road if I have to hear another commercial with her on it.

  24. Someone at the Bay should get fired for such a terrible marketing idea.
    I will no longer shop at the Bay, Brooks must go.

    • If only we could hear all of your voices. I'm afraid you have given me a headache and I haven't even heard you. Bonnie Brooks may not have the voice that you like but give me a break. To say that you wouldn't shop there anymore and that it gives you headaches and you turn off the station when you here it is all a bunch of B.S. You just want to criticize something so you pick an easy target to attack. All of you probably shop at bargain basement stores anyway and the Bay certainly doesn't need your type of customers anyway.

  25. maybe if she spent less time talking and more times at the stores to see how the managment treated the employes thing would get better at the stores especially chinook one and lets get rid of the fashions the are on sale for three years now. tidy the store up. value village looks better

  26. Oh, my God!!! This is the tackiest commercial ever. Bonnie get off the air! Enough is enough. If you sounded better, looked better than maybe…I think hearing your voice and those commercials is nothing but self centered, narcisstic behaviour and the marketing person who allowed this to happen!!!! Give your head a shake. What were you thinking???

  27. what a hot sounding voice…with a face and body to match!

  28. I'm not affiliated with the Bay, and I really like those ads. She's to the point, the copy's well written and very informative in a poetic-stylish way. And to all those guys who refuse to go to the Bay because of an ad… you've gotta be kidding!

  29. I wont shop at the bay and change stations every time her annoying voice come son. advertising FAIL!!!

  30. Oh God, I though I was the only one who wanted to strangle that smoker's voice, so much so I had to find out who this poster girl for the Canadiaqn Lung Cancer Association. Glad I did. I too can't mute these commercials fast enough.

    • HATE HATE HATE her smoker's voice!

  31. SHE SOUNDS HOT AND IS LETS SEE HER MODEL SWIMWARE

  32. Bonnie sounds HOT, HOT, HOT. Any guy who doesn't must swing the other way. That smoky voice is awesome to listen to. Keep it up girl……

  33. I don't know who writes the commercials, but she says some really dumb things. In a few of her commercials she says that "I love that the Bay is the only store in Canada that carries them [product that is being talked about]". Of course you would that means more money for the company! Say that in a board meeting not in a commercial. Just say "only available at the Bay" so you don't sound like a greedy money whore.

  34. The Bay doesn't treat its employees with dignity. I used to be a Bay
    employee and 14 of us were laid off without warning. We were
    called one by one at the HR office and were told we are laid-off
    and told not to come back to the store for the rest of the day. We
    were all shocked and horrified.We never expected that the Bay
    will treat us like what they did and the worst we were escorted
    out of the store like criminals. It is very humiliating. If the Bay
    management treat their employees like dirt, how can they
    expect a booming business.

    • well said, go to sears instead

    • You are so right Lucy. I am ready to start a law suit against the Bay for physical abuse. The Bay constantly talks about treating the customer with respect, serving the customer to the nines and open door policies for their employees. What rubbish. While I was at the Bay, I was physically abused by the Store Manager, I had her door slam on my face and they were so short on employees constantly, how the heck did they expect us to service our clients to the nines. Bonnie get off the air, get into the stores and find out why your employees are not happy…remember all goodness trickles down from the top…people already know who you are…you are here to make a difference, not to become a radio star with no talent desparately seeking stardom. You are missing the real point and situation here…your presence is needed in the stores, your employees and managers need attention and need to be happy. Get off the radio and make a difference where it matters!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  35. I didn't realize how much I disliked the ads and this woman's voice until I started hearing them again on the radio this week. Someone take the microphone away from this woman!

  36. well i disagree with most of you..i had to go online to see what she looked like too, 'cause everytime i heard that voice, it would give me a boner! her voice drives me crazy, but with horniness!!!mmm and to see here pic, omg she is even hotter looking than i could have imagined! damn bonnie, are you single?? please email me! jstdremin@hotmail.com !!!

  37. I can't believe it, someone that's actually more annoying than the Spence guy! Stop the insanity!!

  38. give up now bonnie, you cant do it, your on a loser

  39. I REALLY HATE BONNIE BROOKE'S VOICE ON THE RADIO!!! PLEASE RADIO STATIONS, TURN HER OFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF! I just want to kill myself everytime i hear her voice or just turn the radio station off completely for hours because of her. Eeeeek ….her smoker's voice just doesn't do justice. She must of been smoking since she was 8yrs old and 5 packs a day???

  40. I really hate Bonnie's smoker's voice every time I hear it on the radio here in Calgary (Canada) I just cringe my teeth and shiver! She should really get a representative to speak on behalf of her cuz' her voice just scares away customers.

  41. Not sure why anyone would listen to Bonnie Brooks as I really don't want top look like her, act like her or listen to her. Who does she think she is??There is a lot more to retail than bringing in popular brands and thinking you are a godess when a brand says "Yes" I will supply your 92 stores if you spend $5 mill with our company along the way – Wow what a skill – hardly a difficult task to get credit for.

  42. Voice aside, I am more embarrassed by the current ad where she talks about the 'perfect pump' coming in a "plethora of spring colours",
    and mispronounces 'PLETH-ora' as 'pleth-ORA'…..she may have an MBA but she's not very well-read!!!!!

  43. How true is the above statement! I figured that a 300 plus year old company would have their s _ _ t to-gether, but I was wrong. When I shop at the stores everyone including the staff seem so unhappy. Why don't you try (Bonnie) to turn that around and make a difference for the employees that work for you. If they are happy with their jobs, they will be happy with their customers. All of the employees seem scared and nervous. Years ago, it was an experience to go to a big box store and the Bay was one of my favorites. I don't go anymore. It is too tiring to try to find a salesperson to assist me with help. When I do they either do not know the merchandise or they make it clear that they do not want to help me. I now shop online for my retail needs. Bonnie, get out of the studio and into your stores! Wasn't that what you were paid to do? Change the way of doing business. Truly care about your customers.

  44. What is the matter with all you people and your voice bashing of Bonnie?Here we have a super talented,seasoned retailer who has the balls to go with a much needed, out of the box idea to put the Bay back on the retail radar! Who cares what she sounds like! I have had the opportunity of working with Bonnie both at Dylex and Holts' and she is a pistol! Keep talking Bonnie., I'll be listening!!!!

  45. I am boycotting The Bay until they get Bonnie Brooks off the airwaves. She has the most horrific voice! Like nails on a chalkboard to me.
    I even emailed HBC to tell them this but they obviously don't listen to their customers. I'll just have to keep switching radio stations I guess and shopping elsewhere.

  46. Please stop playing these annoying commericials!!! Bonnie Brooks seems like a nice person and all but the commericials are so boring and too long – I switch the radio station every time!!!!!!!!

  47. After reading these posts it really surprises me that it is the constant women bringing down other successfull women bit. Why do women do that? We should be supporting successfull women. She didn't get to be at the top of the "boy's club" without a lot of extremely hard work. Seriously you have nothing better to do than mock her voice?. Think about it…if it was a man's voice you wouldn't be making any comments!!!
    This world will continue to be a man's world if us women do not stick together! So stay positive and support women!!

  48. How bonnie brooks ruined the bay…

  49. I really hate how people like Bonnie Brooks, that annoying PC guy, and the Spence Diamond guy do their own commercials….HIRE A PROFESSIONAL puhlease!!

  50. The Bay's White Space Gala held in Vancouver on October 5th was a fashion flop. If the occasion was meant to revive the Bay's image, industry insiders concur, it's a long road ahead. In a nutshell, the night was uneventful, uninteresting and unsuccessful according to sources. The looming question stands, can Bonnie Brooks save the company?

    Event planners along with the CEO's need to take a crash course on how to plan and execute @Successful Store Launch! No publicity, no polish, no people or pizzazz pretty much translates into no party. Where was the promotional advertising for the event? Where were the expected shoppers? The buzz from bloggers in attendance… they didn't get the word out!

    The talk was about the lack of good food and entertainment, not fashion's night out at the Bay. Why weren't more customers thrilled or interested in the store's updated look and designer duds? At one point, I was expecting to see fashion road kill on the catwalk…from the awkward looking models skittishly making their way down the runway.

    The Bay's credibility continues to be under a microscope. They're banking on the new upscale look and new vendors to throw them a life preserver. Over the years, their image has been typecast into an unforgettable category I refer to as the three TTT's! Tacky, tarnished, definitely not trendy!

    Let's face the facts, the staff they hire are hopeless and offer appallingly bad service. Incompetence seems to run rampant in the store from the employers, right down to the employees. Even the company's face-lift and higher-end priced merchandise cannot lure customers back.

    This was a crucial night for the Bay to shine, their golden ticket out of old-fashion oblivion. The company failed miserably. Are they forever destined to follow in the fashion shadow of Holt Renfrew? One thing remains certain; the Bay is still cheap plus affordable. I can still shop there for my socks…maybe!

  51. I can't take another Bay commercial. Just shoot me now. The voice is not at all flattering, it's repulsive.
    Bonny Brooks may be getting some attention but I don't believe it's helping to revive The Bay.

  52. Agreed – nails down a chalk board sound more inviting.

  53. The woman will be the downfall of the company if they continue to let her do the annoying commercials on the radio. She comes across as pretentious and snotty! Quick someone save the Bay and all of us from her eccentric and annoying ads!!!

  54. just adding my vote to get her the hell off the radio. i LITERALLY SWITCH RADIO STATIONS when i hear her in the bay ads. let me repeat that for any radio station admin people that might be reading this: the BONNY BROOKS ADS MAKE ME SWITCH RADIO STATIONS.

  55. haha – I came online looking for a support group against those annoying commercials. Glad to hear I am not the only one who changes the radio station when I here Bonnie Brooks :p

  56. With all due respect, Ms. Brooks should NOT be doing these radio ads. I don't find that she has the sexy Lauren Bacall (smokers?) rasp. More, I find her voice nasally and yes, monotone. Please, to spare her any further humiliation, GET HER OFF THE AIR!

  57. To Bonnie Brooks….I thought you would be someone who could actually do something with the Bay. Yesterday you had an ad on the radio proclaiming the best selection EVER for renewing patio furniture cushion pads, chair pads etc. Off we go…the staff didn't know anything about it (only umbrellas). We bought a set (sofa, 2 chairs and ottoman 3 years ago) and have been trying to get new cushions for it. Anyone?? I understand programmed obsolecense but this is crazy. Need new cushions..your original product, bring in the rerplacement cushions as well.

  58. I really do not feel proud of myself for saying this…but I agree with the majority of people on here…and that is that I really dislike hearing Bonnie Brooks voice. …Her voice is raspy (not sexy) and she does sounds like she has smoked for many years… (and not appealing)…I hear the advertisements so often that it now bothers me a lot and I have to turn down the volume on my radio…I wish someone one else could be the spokesperson for The Bay…then I would be much more receptive to listening to the advertisements on the radio. I must admit I do not go to The Bay half as often as I used to…

  59. They say that any publicity is good publicity and maybe at this point that is what the Bay is banking on but I think in this case it's drawing attention to Bonnie's hideous voice, not drawing people into the Bay to shop. She may have a good track record as a successful business woman but attempting to use her CEO celebrity for radio ads is not at all endearing.

    As fickle as it may seem, I'm one of the many who refuses to shop at the Bay as a protest to having to listen to the nasty radio ads. Enough already. It works for some companies but it isn't working for the Bay. Go back to your office and do your job. Get a cute Canadian celebrity with a pleasant voice to represent as spokesperson then I will go back to shop.

  60. your voice makes ma want to kick a baby

  61. Her commercials on the radio or horrible. Please stop making these commericals Bonnie, I cringe everytime your voice comes on the air and havn’t been to the Bay since they have aired.  Your smokers voice does not cut it, I hate these commercials so much I turn the radio off, please PR people get a professional to do these commercials.

  62. Bonnie’s a star. The commercials are great and i love that its the brains behind the operation that speaks to the consumer through the company’s commercials. I also love the fact that she always tells us the story behind the product or line she mentions. Having some knowledge on the background of the product, such as john galliano’s inspiration for the diorshow mascara, makes me feel in the loop with the trends as well as the Bay’s new direction. Bonnie’s voice also differentiates her commercial from the others on the radio by staying away from the usual cookie cutter voice that just fades into a background noise. I love this lady, though i don’t know her, i really hope i can have half her vision, knowledge and business sense one day.

  63. Bonnie: time to give up the Crown Royale and smokes!

  64. WE JUST STARTED GETTING THE BAY COMMERCIALS, AND THEY ARE ON 3 TIMES A HR.   THAT COSTS BIG BUCKS—- I dont like their ascribed high end merchandise from, 3rd world countries– was the downfall of WOODWARDS in the 1980′s

    bring back the 100% wool blankets and those striped coats, beaver skin hats,and fur lined boots  its going to be a nasty winter

  65. YOU TEACH LESSONS ABOUT THEFT BY DOING IT YOURSELVES

    I have a bit more of an axe to grind then just the dull commercials.  I am extremely disappointed to admit, but my youngest daughter, who has now just started highschool, stupidly decided to experiment with shoplifting a lip gloss. Now, of course, as parents, we have all (hopefully all) taught our children that stealing is bad and there are always consequences to our actions.  MOST people out there, as kids, lifted something stupid and inconsequential; whether it be a chocolate bar, piece of gum, makeup, a pair of earrings…. Anyways, the reason for my writing this is the unjust way that The Hudson’s Bay company decides to deal with this matter.  I would NEVER say “do not punish my child for this behaviour”, which she has been, but where these people get off punishing ME for this is beyond my comprehension.  My daughter. age 14 yrs old, has had to deal with community service, also writing an appology letter to “Zellers” and attend a certain number of what I like to call “shoplifters annonymous” meetings, never minding the fact that she had the total humiliation of being handcuffed by the police and having to deal with the major consequences at home.  She has also been banned from ALL affiliated outlets of the Hudson’s Bay comapny.  MY punishment, however, is now a fine of $600.00. Can you imagine????  What in God’s name is that going to teach my child?  OHHH, or is it meant to teach me that she must NEVER leave my side for the rest of her life?????  Oh no, that’s right, by me struggling to come up with this money in the 2 week period they give you to pay it, it will suddenly make my parenting skills sooooo much better that when I teach my daughter how bad stealing is, she will actually listen this time, correct??????  
    My daughter knows she made a huge mistake.  She, generally speaking, is a well behaved child and does extremely well in school.  The fact is, it was a very bad decision on her part, but as I am a single parent, trying to do the best I can, am absolutely disgusted with this company for taking such measures.  What a pathetic cash grab on innocent people.  I will be informing as many people as possible about what this company is doing (not that it will prevent their children from lifting something if they’re going to) but so that people know what this company is really about.  I have been a shopper of all of these stores for years, and I even worked for them when I was younger.  HUDSON’S BAY company and ALL of your affiliates, YOU DISGUST ME. 

    • This comment was deleted.

      • yeah that sounds like something my child would say

  66. i hate her voice as well..

  67. There’s three things that I hate the most to hear on the radio. The sound of a cars horn on the car radio when I’m driving and I think it’s coming from outside, the sound of casino chant and mostly the sound of The Bay Company CEO Bonnie Brooks voice. I’m not saying this to be mean towards Ms. Brooks but please stick with what you do well (manage the company). Whatever gave Ms. Brooks the idea that anybody wants to hear her raspy, smoke filled voice. Come on, give the listeners a break. A lot of people agree and change the channel as soon as she comes on. Radio channels should consider that they are loosing some of their listeners due to very poor commercial. It’s not the content of the commercial Ms. Brooks gives that is bad ” IT’s HER VOICE”.  Sorry if I ofended Ms. Brooks but Ms. Brooks voice really annoys me. 

  68. Thank you everyone…..I too, cannot stand her voice.   I know it was her god given voice but really, she could have paid someone with a much more seductive, alluring voice…don’t you think???     Do you think she ever reads these?

  69. I just read a little further and I too just wanted to see what she looked like.!   She is a lot younger and very attractive…sorry she has such an awful voice!

  70. Unfortunatly I am trap listening to The Bay radio ads featuring Bonnie Brooks.  They really should be written better.  Her voice is enough to decalcify one spinal column.  She is an insult to Canada, one ad I remember is her reference to Oprah Winfrey make in the Canadian Olympic mittens famous world wide, Give your head a shake Bonnie, Canada as a nation made the mittens famous, not some blotted old bag.

  71.  was very excited with my 20% off this weekend but I  was working so I rushed in at 4:30 Sunday evening. I would love to have taken advantage of a nice Micheal Kors watch but alas there was no one to be found to help me. Well over to the shoe department where I found a really great pair of shoes where I was treated rudely and actually left once, came back and was treated badly again and went to leave literally in tears. I eventually bought the shoes at another counter. Your staff could really use some customer service training and the concept of teamwork. I will likely take the shoes back tomorrow after this terrible experience. Bonnie Brooks I do not feel like you value my patronage or do I feel welcomed as your letter proclaimed I would. 

  72. I have to change the radio station if I hear her snobby voice! I stopped going to the Bay because of her commercials!

  73. hi love it HHHHi iam Bonnie Brooks

  74. make love you or make them hate you,but make sure they know who you are . :)

  75. Glad I checked out this article. I TOO hate Bonnie’s commercials on the radio and more specifically her monotone delivery and annoying voice. She should not be doing these ads!!

    But I must say this, I had stopped shopping at the Bay because I did not like the ads…I recently went on a shopping spree and must say that Bonnie was on my mind again. I was truly impressed by the changes and the quality of the products being promoted by the Bay. The air is really changing at the Bay and it is JUST FANTASTIC!! I loved my shopping experience, the store has really gotten a facelift! Thank you!

    I was so impressed, I needed to find out more about Bonnie and after reading this article, I am truly impressed by this lady!! I hope your plan works Bonnie, I want us (me) to keep shopping at the Bay for a long long time. We need to keep this Canadian institution alive.

    I am sold on Bonnie!!…Sorry Bonnie I still hate your commercials, though! :-)

    I have come back to the BAY as I love the changes and want to do my part to make sure other generations of Canadians can keep shopping here as well.

    Keep up the great work.

  76. forget her voice, I nominate Bonne to go on Undercover Boss (the American one) and she can see and hear what her employees really think of her and The Bay! The Bay is a horrible place to work if only she would pay attention to her employees rather than just her image The Bay would be a success

  77. Bonnie, come to Winnipeg and see the Polo Park Bay. Not a thing worth buying anywhere in that store with the exception of the Mens Dept. The rest of the store looks like a bargain basement. And please have someone else do those radio commercials as your voice makes me leave the room. Better yet, loose the commercials completely until you have made the store what it once was – a pleasure to shop in.

  78. I am so fed up of turning down or off the radio when Bonnie Brooks voice comes on.
    It has made me anti The Bay now. I even got rid of a Bay Blanket. I am thinking of
    the radio station I listen to as a junk channel now too. I also see online that the
    Bay is very poorly rated as a place to work. All around I see the Bay as crap now.

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