You may have read recent news stories saying the great North American shopping mall era is over, along with its busy escalators, coin-filled fountains and food court hangouts. But is the mall dying in Atlantic Canada?
Michael Zakuta, president and CEO of Plaza Retail REIT, says, “Smaller enclosed malls are at a disadvantage, but there are still successful enclosed malls and there are power centres that aren’t working.” He says new malls aren’t being built because the existing ones are well-placed and well-designed. The enclosed mall works in Atlantic Canada, says Zakuta, “because we still have a winter,” and consumers appreciate having everything under one roof.
Strip malls in Atlantic Canada, however, are quickly becoming a thing of the past as many struggle to keep up with renovations, according to a report by the Office of Consumer Affairs. Mostly found in small communities, vacancy rates at strip malls are soaring, with shoppers opting for multi-level enclosed malls or power centres.
Enclosed mall opening dates in Atlantic Canada
(Note: does not include all malls in the region; some did not respond to
requests for information and could not be found online)
The increasing popularity of online shopping poses a threat to brick-and-mortar retailers, especially smaller retailers that do not offer online services. Atlantic Canadians are slightly below the national average for number and value of electronic orders. The main reasons for slower growth in e-commerce sales are consumer reluctance to share private information and a lack of trust in the product.
Power centres, current stars of the retail scene, are open-air, pedestrian-friendly retail parks. They typically host three or more big box stores and smaller establishments arranged in a strip mall layout, with a shared central parking area. Many power centres have areas that imitate a main street shopping area — with large-window storefronts, parks and outdoor cafes. Located outside of city centres, retailers do not experience the space limitations they would in shopping malls.
Catalogues have re-appeared on the retail scene. Not long ago, they were viewed as expensive and outdated, but are now a clever marketing strategy that crosses the platforms of online, in-store and mail-order or call-in shopping. They may have lost the appeal they once had, but they have come back in smaller, non-chain stores and remain popular for larger retailers like H&M and Ikea.