Photo Tour: West Edmonton Mall Phase 1 and Phase 2 During COVID-19

Retail Insider continues its Photo Tour series of Canadian Malls to provide a glimpse into shopping malls across Canada which may be less frequented due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This edition is the first of a two-part photo tour of the West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta. As West Edmonton Mall (WEM) is the largest mall in Canada, with over 800 retailers, attractions, and experiences, this edition focuses on Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the shopping centre.

In 2019, Christopher Lui wrote a fantastic article which detailed the attractions and retailers that would be joining the lineup. This photo tour won’t be duplicating that information, but instead will be adding context into the current situation that is impacting the mall and retailers.

We have partnered up with Matthew from Best Edmonton Mall for the images that are used in this photo tour. He visited the mall on December 22nd, 2020 and we wanted to share his experience.

The West Edmonton Mall Map – Click for the Interactive website

Breaking Up West Edmonton Mall into Pieces for the Tour

One of the more challenging parts of the photo tour was to bring 5.3 million square feet of shopping centre to our loyal Retail Insider readers. As a result, we split West Edmonton Mall into two mall tour articles, one will be run today and the second can be found here.

  • Phase 1 and Phase 2 (Part One/this article): Completed in 1981 and 1983 respectively; and
  • Phase 3 and Phase 4 (Part Two): Completed in 1985 and 1999 respectively.
WEM Map. Phase 1 and Phase 2 (in Green) featured in this article. Phase 3 and Phase 4 (in Gray/Blue) featured in a second article.

All four phases have two retail levels which we’ll cover from the ground (level 1) up (level 2). As always, the mall tour will progress through the mall in ‘tour zones’. Each zone will highlight the main retail tenants and a selection of other retailers with related links to other Retail Insider articles. This is not an exhaustive listing as the shopping centre has over 800 retailers and our apologies to any retailers we may have overlooked.

Lower Level Overview at West Edmonton Mall, Phases 1 and 2

WEM (Phase 1 and Phase 2) – Lower Level – Tour Zones

The lower level for Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the West Edmonton mall tour was densely packed with retailers. For an orderly wander through the shopping level, the ground floor was grouped into five ‘tour zones’:

  • Lower Right Zone (Red) in Phase 1
  • Upper Right Zone (Blue) in Phase 1
  • Centre Zone (Yellow)
  • Lower Left Zone (Burgundy) in Phase 2
  • Upper Left Zone (Green) in Phase 2

West Edmonton Mall, Lower Level, Lower Right Zone in Phase 1

WEM (Phase 1 and Phase 2) – Lower Level – Lower Right Tour Zone

Starting off our tour in West Edmonton Mall’s Phase 1, the lower right tour zone is anchored by Winners and HomeSense. The Winners/HomeSense space as well as several spaces in the mall started off as an Eaton’s department store which shut in 1999 amid the chain’s bankruptcy. It was eventually turned into a Target store which opened in 2013 and closed in early 2015. The wing struggles with foot traffic compared to the ‘centre run’ of the mall, though the massive Winners/HomeSense has become a draw.

Bronze Whale Statue at West Edmonton Mall
Bronze Whale Statue – Photo by Matthew @ Best Edmonton Mall

The Whale sculpture, a favourite decades ago in the second phase of the mall, was moved to Phase 1 a couple of years ago and was recently relocated from the north to the south side of the wing. Many children have climbed into the mouth of the sculpture over the years, as described in the video below.

Select retailers in this tour zone include:

West Edmonton Mall, Lower Level, Upper Right Zone, Phase 1

WEM (Phase 1 and Phase 2) – Lower Level – Lower Right Tour Zone
Hudson's Bay West Edmonton Mall December 2020 Holiday
Hudson’s Bay West Edmonton Mall December 2020 Holiday – Photo by Best Edmonton Mall

The “Upper Right” tour zone on the lower level at West Edmonton Mall has the Centre Stage and its main anchor is Hudson’s Bay. The Hudson’s Bay store is about 165,000 square feet and could use a renovation. Hudson’s Bay is one of the original anchors of West Edmonton Mall, along with Eaton’s and Sears. In 1985 Woodward’s joined them over in Phase 3, and Bretton’s opened in 1987 not long after.

Select retailers in this Phase 1 tour zone include:

Mayfield Toyota Opening 2021 – Photo by Matthew at Best Edmonton Mall

Mayfield Toyota is scheduled to open July 1 of this year — we were the first to report on the interesting development. Included will be a 117,000-square-foot automotive centre, a new 200,000-square-foot multi-level parking structure and service detail centre, and valet parking throughout the mall.

Clustered to the left (on the map above) of Centre Stage is a grouping of jewellers, including:

The centre stage has been home to performances and other exhibits over the years. In years past a large water fountain was located there.

West Edmonton Mall, Lower Level, Centre Zone

WEM (Phase 1 and Phase 2) – Lower Level – Centre Tour Zone

The “Centre” tour zone on the lower level at West Edmonton Mall has one of two mall food courts as well as one entrance to Galaxyland Amusement Park. Key retailers in this zone include Miniso, Urban Planet, and Mark’s. Related articles for the key retailers include:

Urban Planet at West Edmonton Mall
Urban Planet at West Edmonton Mall – Photo by Matthew at Best Edmonton Mall

Select retailers in this tour zone include:

This area at times can get quite busy and some retailers and foodservice businesses see exceptionally high sales. The Urban Planet store spans more than 16,000 square feet. Given the proximity to Galaxyland, this will be a popular part of the mall in the future as tourists return.

In 1987, upscale Ottawa-based department store Brettons opened a 45,000-square-foot store in the area where Mark’s, Urban Planet, and International Clothiers are located — the Brettons store closed in 1996 when parent company Comark went bankrupt. Prior to being occupied by Brettons, the space was a Safeway grocery store.

West Edmonton Mall, Lower Level, Lower Left Zone in Phase 2

WEM (Phase 1 and Phase 2) – Lower Level – Lower Left Tour Zone

The “Lower Left” tour zone on the lower level at West Edmonton Mall has the Ice Palace skating rink featuring activities such as public skating, competitions, hockey games, and exhibits where the ice is covered over. For years, Entrance 48 at the south end of this section of the mall was the busiest because of the adjacent bus loop. Key retailers in this zone include Artizia, Urban Outfitters, and West 49. Related articles for the key retailers include:

West 49 at West Edmonton Mall overlooking Ice Palace
West 49 at West Edmonton Mall – Photo by Matthew at Best Edmonton Mall

Select retailers in this tour zone include:

The Ice Palace has been a draw for years, and was sponsored by Mayfield Toyota to such an extent that the auto dealership got naming rights. Mayfield Toyota has since partnered with the mall to construct a massive showroom and service/parking facility as well as valet parking and car detailing.

Canada’s first Forever 21 opened in this part of the mall in 2002. The store shut last year amid a company bankruptcy and the 22,450-square-foot space is now occupied by West 49.

Some retailers in this part of the mall do exceptionally well, including Sephora and Aritzia which are particularly successful.

West Edmonton Mall, Lower Level, Upper Left Zone Phase 2

WEM (Phase 1 and Phase 2) – Lower Level – Upper Left Tour Zone

The “Upper Left” tour zone on the lower level at West Edmonton Mall has another entrance to Galaxyland with key retailers in this zone including Guess! and Ardene. Related articles for the key retailers include:

Adrene at West Edmonton Mall
Adrene at West Edmonton Mall – Photo by Matthew at Best Edmonton Mall

Select retailers in this tour zone include

West Edmonton Mall (Phase 1 and Phase 2): Upper Level

WEM (Phase 1 and Phase 2) – Upper Level – Tour Zones

Moving up in our West Edmonton mall tour of Phase 1 and Phase 2, the upper level has been divided into four tour zones for this article:

  • Lower Right Zone (Red) Phase 1
  • Upper Right Zone (Blue) Phase 1
  • Centre Zone (Yellow) Phase 2
  • Left Zone (Green) Phase 2

West Edmonton Mall, Upper Level, Lower Right Zone, Phase 1

WEM (Phase 1 and Phase 2) – Upper Level – Lower Right Tour Zone

The “Lower Right” tour zone on the upper level at West Edmonton Mall features an entrance into entertainment concept ‘The Rec Room’. Key retailers in this zone included Harry Rosen and buybuy BABY. Related articles for the key retailers include:

Harry Rosen at West Edmonton Mall
Harry Rosen at West Edmonton Mall – Photo by Matthew at Best Edmonton Mall

Select retailers in this tour zone include:

  • Carter’s OshKosh
  • Rain
  • George Richards – Big and Tall Menswear
  • Luggage Unlimited
  • Northern Reflections
  • Society

Buybuy BABY is part of the former upper level of the mall’s former Eaton’s store which became a Target, as discussed above.

Some are surprised that Harry Rosen is located in this part of the mall. Luxury retailers are mostly located near Louis Vuitton in Phase 3. Several years ago CEO Larry Rosen explained how Phase 1 was strategic so that his male customers could find parking and pop in and out of the store. At one time competitor Henry Singer was so successful that Rosen considered exiting the Edmonton market, though times have changed.

The Rec Room, spanning nearly 100,000 square feet over two levels, opened in August of 2017. The expansion was intended to be a Holt Renfrew store and was being built on spec while negotiations with the retailer were ongoing. A deal never happened and The Rec Room was instead built-out.

West Edmonton Mall, Upper Level, Upper Right Zone, Phase 1

WEM (Phase 1 and Phase 2) – Upper Level – Lower Right Tour Zone

The “Upper Right” tour zone on the upper level at West Edmonton Mall has another entrance to Hudson’s Bay which we mentioned being accessible from the lower level as well. Other key retailers in this zone include The Brick, DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse, and Maison Birks. Related articles for the key retailers include:

Select retailers in this tour zone include:

This wing in the mall, like much of Phase 1, is quieter than the centre of the mall. In the 1990s Alfred Sung operated stores in this section of the mall including ‘Alfred Sung’ and ‘Alfred by Alfred Sung’, the latter featuring menswear as well as women’s fashions.

West Edmonton Mall, Upper Level, Centre Zone

WEM (Phase 1 and Phase 2) – Upper Level – Centre Tour Zone

The “Centre” tour zone on the upper level at West Edmonton Mall has several international brands including Apple, Lululemon, and Samsung. Related articles for the key retailers include:

Apple Store at West Edmonton Mall
Apple Store at West Edmonton Mall – Photo by Matthew at Best Edmonton Mall

Select retailers in this tour zone include

Some retailers in this section of the mall do extremely well. While Apple doesn’t reveal store sales numbers, sources say that the West Edmonton Mall store did over $50 million in sales in 2019. Lululemon also sells tens of millions of dollars annually at West Edmonton Mall. Hugo Boss recently renovated its West Edmonton Mall store featuring the brand’s newest design, similar to the Yorkdale location in Toronto.

In the photo below, glass art work hanging from the ceiling is meant to depict oil droplets.

West Edmonton Mall, Upper Level, Left Zone

WEM (Phase 1 and Phase 2) – Upper Level – Left Tour Zone

The final tour zone for our West Edmonton Mall tour of Phase 1 and Phase 2 is the ‘left zone’ on the upper level. The entrance to the Starlight Casino is located in this zone as well as UNIQLO, Sephora, Zara, and Anthropologie. Related articles for the key retailers include:

UNIQLO at West Edmonton Mall
UNIQLO at West Edmonton Mall. Photo by Matthew at Best Edmonton Mall

Select retailers in this tour zone include

A unique Swarovski store is contained in a rounded retail space that years ago was an aquarium featuring exotic sea creatures. Several were located throughout the mall. Marshalls is a popular draw and opened in the summer of 2018 in part of the former Zellers space in the mall.

Wrap Up of West Edmonton Mall (Phase 1 and Phase 2) Photo Tour

And that’s a wrap! Join us tomorrow for a tour of Phases 3 and 4 of West Edmonton Mall, which are the two newest phases and house a wide range of retailers from luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent to the innovative Simons anchor store. We hope you enjoyed this tour which took a considerable amount of work to put together.

Thank you again Matthew from Best Edmonton Mall who supplied photos for this article.

Interested in Seeing More West Edmonton Mall Photos

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for an interesting tour. I’ve never been to the West Edmonton Mall, but it has an international repute. Judging from the variety and concentration of retailers, attractions, and the sheer square footage, it’s a wonder that other retail centres still exist and thrive (much less Whyte Avenue) in the vicinity of this gigantic retail vortex. It may not quite be The Mall That Ate Edmonton, but it is certainly the alpha fortress commercial circus of the city. The chief casualty is downtown Edmonton which seems to have a lot in common with downtown Winnipeg. Both are struggling city centres bereft of the retail activity found in the hearts of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. But Edmonton is, in this respect, more typical of North American cities than those three. The commercial centre of gravity in most have shifted away from downtowns to big, regional West Edmonton equivalents that can be found in almost every large metropolitan area on the continent. They may not be quite as large and comprehensive, but they dominate their markets with the most desirable stores and amenities, and command premium leases. I notice that among your shopping mall profiles, you have also included surveys of Vancouver’s luxury zone, and Toronto’s Bloor/Yorkville. I find downtown street-oriented shopping districts that continue to endure even more intriguing than malls as the former are now atypical and relatively few remain in this era of sprawl and booming e-commerce. I’m fascinated by Central Montreal and Rue Sainte Catherine in particular. Montreal is of course subject to the same commercial trends that have swept other North American metros including the evolution of successful fortress malls like Carrefour Laval, Quartier Dix/30, Fairview Pointe Claire, and the still-in-developement Yorkdale equivalent Royalmount. All of those would be a good subject for a future tour/profile but the ongoing evolution of the now-struggling Sainte Catherine Street is also worth a survey. The challenge of maintaining its vitality in the face of suburban competition, Coronavirus restrictions, empty office buildings and hotels, disruptive construction, and shifting public taste would provide an illuminating portrait of the situation that retailers in particular and cities in general are facing everywhere.

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