By Mario Toneguzzi
The Vancouver region is experiencing a rapidly expanding retail market, driven in part by strong population growth, with continued success forecast for the future.
A report by Statistics Canada says retail stores in the Vancouver census metropolitan ('CMA') area increased their sales from $22.2 billion in 2004 to $36 billion in 2016, a rise of 62 per cent.
During the same period, the Vancouver CMA’s population grew from 2.1 million inhabitants to 2.6 million inhabitants, a rise of 19.4 per cent.
“Moreover, population projections suggest that the Vancouver CMA could see a further 26.4 per cent increase in its population in the next 20 years, which will likely increase the need for planning the location of future shopping centre developments,” says the StatsCan report.
In Vancouver, there were 209 shopping centres in 2016. The predominant type was the neighbourhood centre, which accounted for 38.3 per cent of shopping centres in Vancouver, says the report.
“While super-regional malls are typically the largest type of shopping centre in terms of gross leasable area, few major metropolitan areas can support more than a handful, and Vancouver is no exception, with 4 super-regional malls.
An additional factor why most large metropolitan areas have few super-regional malls is that with a large portion of population growth occurring in suburbs, shopping centre developers have focused on the development of other shopping centre types like power centres, which are open-air centres between 200,000 to 1,000,000 square feet. A power centre can be comprised of several anchors, which are mainly medium- and large-scale retailers (e.g. big-box stores) that may be freestanding or connected,” says the report.
According to StatsCan, there were 9429 retail stores operating in the Vancouver CMA in 2016. Of these, 23 per cent or 2,173 retailers were located in one of the seven shopping centre types - super-regional, regional, community, power, retail mixed-use, retail hybrid, or lifestyle. The remaining 77 per cent of retailers were either operating stand-alone stores or located in the two other shopping centre types - neighbourhood centres and convenience centres.
At the retail sector level, retailers located in a shopping centre accounted for 23.1 per cent of the Vancouver CMA’s retail store sales in 2016.
Retailers located in shopping centres accounted for almost a quarter of the retail store sales in the Vancouver CMA in 2016.
Susan Nicol, general manager of the Oakridge Centre and Office Towers in Vancouver, says the retail market has been very strong in the city since she came to the city in 2014.
“There’s a growing demand for that,” she says. “We’ve been very lucky in Oakridge because I think there’s a major growth in luxury and I think that’s the difference between Vancouver and some other cities . . . We’ve certainly seen a boom in luxury . . . We define lifestyle through fashion, art, design and culture. And we create vision for luxury lifestyle in Vancouver . . . We’ve been lucky enough to benefit from that.”
The Oakridge shopping centre is 600,000 square feet with about 120 stores. At the end of June, the shopping centre sales were $1,579 per square foot. It has benefited from the explosive retail growth in Vancouver over the years.
“Generally we’re seeing consistent growth. We’ve seen large growth and now we’re just looking for that consistency here,” says Nicol.
But Nicol says no information is available right now about that because plans are still being worked on. In the next few months, ideas and plans will be put forward.
One of the main new tenancies at Oakridge is La Maison Valmont, which is a Swiss spa experience and skin care.
“It’s a very, very beautiful salon. This is the first location in North America. So the next location will probably be Los Angeles and then Las Vegas. Vancouver has the demographics akin to where they want to be,” says Nicol. “They’ve opened in Tokyo and Hong Kong and they have a clinic in Switzerland. It’s a very beautiful brand and that’s where our differential comes in. We’re doing that. It’s very unique.”
Oakridge also opened Marc Cain, a premium brand for women’s fashion.
“All within the last three to four months all these things have happened that have created a really unique point of difference for us,” says Nicol.
The experience at the mall is evolving too. Last weekend, it hosted a supercar weekend. There have been fashion shows on the weekend that highlight products sold by retailers.
Oakridge Centre in partnership with Chali-Rosso Art Gallery is also presenting Definitely Dali – a stunning collection of original Salvador Dali masterpieces from September 13 to October 1.
Oakridge also has an Inner Circle club which hosts a series of luxury and lifestyle events for the premier-class shopper.
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.