Atrium Toronto Launches Pop-Up Retail Initiative

Atrium Building rendering of future addition. Photo: City of Toronto

Atrium Building rendering of future addition. Photo: City of Toronto

By Craig Patterson  

Atrium, the massive mixed-use complex in downtown Toronto, is launching a pop-up retail initiative in an effort to create a more compelling tenant mix while at the same time creating a buzz from a diverse range of activations. It’s a trend that more landlords are embracing as consumers seek out new shopping experiences.

As part of the pop-up initiative, Atrium is making available several spaces in its retail podium for temporary activations. One of the goals is to provide a boost to adjacent retailers while at the same time creating publicity for the pop-up brands.

A handful of pop-up tenants have already been secured — over the weekend there was a one-day pop-up art gallery open by invitation only, featuring Montréal artist Alice Marques’ works, for example. This week, on Wednesday, February 13 and Thursday, February 14, a unique experience called “VRalentine’s Day” will be held in a retail space on Atrium’s Concourse Level — guests can choose from a selection of games in which they can compete against friends, as well as enter a contest with a chance to win a grand prize from The Kitchen Table located in Atrium.

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Asset Management and consulting firm MPA Inc.  is responsible for Atrium’s retail component. MPA’s president, Mike Parker, explained why pop-up retail is being included in the mix. “This pop-up program will help us continue to grow our brand awareness and attract a diverse audience as we work through a significant upgrade and remerchandising at Atrium,” he said.

A dedicated pop-up space is located on both the Ground Level of Atrium as well as on the Concourse Level. Atrium partnered with Toronto-based temporary retail activation company, pop-up go, which has worked with brands and landlords both in Canada and the United States. “Bringing pop-up shops and unique and memorable activations to Atrium has been a desired goal of mine for some time,” said Linda Farha, Founder and Chief Connector of pop-up go. “Atrium has been a long-time client of our sister company, Zenergy Communications. This type of initiative has proven to boost sales, drive exposure and create brand buzz,” she continued. 

Photo: Google Maps

Photo: Google Maps

Muji Atrium. Photo: MUJI

Muji Atrium. Photo: MUJI

Atrium occupies an entire city block on the north side of Dundas Street bounded by Yonge Street to the east and Bay Street to the west and Edward Street to the north. Its retail podium spans more than 150,000 square feet over three levels and houses a diverse range of retail tenants. Muji recently unveiled its largest flagship store outside of Asia at Atrium with a frontage onto busy Dundas Street West. There’s a Jordan brand store at 306 Yonge Street with Yonge Street and concourse access in Atrium, and other centre tenants include the OLG Prize Centre and Canada Post, as well as food and beverage options such as Red Lobster, Pickle Barrel, Spring Rolls and ‘Concourse Eats,’ the centre’s food court located on the Concourse Level. Above the retail podium is a substantial office component featuring three towers with more than 900,000 square feet of prime workspace.

The nearby Yonge-Dundas Square area is one of the busiest urban areas in North America, which some consider to be Canada’s answer to New York City’s Times Square. Included is the busiest pedestrian intersection in Canada — that foot traffic due in part to the presence of the CF Toronto Eaton Centre on the south side of Dundas Street (across from Atrium), which is the busiest shopping centre in North America with nearly 54-million annual visitors, according to Retail Council of Canada. Ryerson University’s campus draws thousands to the area daily, as do several major hospitals in the area, as well as Toronto City Hall and other nearby draws.

Photo: Ryerson University

Photo: Ryerson University

CF Toronto Eaton Centre across Yonge-Dundas Square. Photo:    Branded Cities

CF Toronto Eaton Centre across Yonge-Dundas Square. Photo: Branded Cities

Retailers and landlords continue to utilize pop-up retail in order to create brand awareness as well as to create buzz. Last year one retail expert, David Ian Gray, predicted that 2018 would be ‘the year of the pop-up’ in Canada, and 2019 appears that it will be another banner year. Experiential retail is becoming a priority for some brands that are seeking to engage with consumers.

Various major shopping centre landlords are adding pop-up retail as part of their real estate strategy. We previously reported on CONCEPT at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre, which is a permanent dedicated 3,600 square foot space for temporary retail activations. Oxford Properties, landlord for Yorkdale, has launched other pop-up initiatives in its malls. Cadillac Fairview has been experimenting with temporary retail activations with considerable success, ranging from springtime ‘flower markets’ to temporary locations for brands such as Amazon. Ivanhoé Cambridge, too, is launching pop-up retail in its centres – the landlord partnered with US-based storefront for some of its malls, and is also using Ms. Farha’s pop-up go to facilitate temporary activations at the landlord’s three ‘Mills’ properties in Canada – that includes Vaughan Mills north of Toronto, CrossIron Mills outside of Calgary, and Tsawwassen Mills which is south of Vancouver.

We recently published expansive articles discussing how retailers and others are creating experiences to engage with consumers, and how pop-up retail continues to gain traction as it becomes a mainstream phenomenon.

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Craig Patterson, now based in Toronto, is the founder and Editor-in-Chief Retail Insider. He's also a retail and real estate consultant, retail tour guide and public speaker. 

Follow him on Twitter @RetailInsider_, LinkedIn at Craig Patterson, or email him at: craig@retail-insider.com.   

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