By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary’s CF Market Mall continues to evolve as a destination for consumers not only for shopping but entertainment as well.
The popular shopping centre in the northwest part of Calgary has inked a deal to bring The Keg Steakhouse + Bar into its fold with an expected opening this fall to coincide at the same time with the opening of a premium movie theatre by Landmark Cinemas.
“The Keg is going to be on the exterior. We’re really excited about The Keg obviously. It’s on the southeast corner of the mall. It’s going to be a big Keg. It’s going to have an outdoor patio and it will work really well,” said Darren Milne, the mall’s general manager.
“About three years ago we talked about what CF Market Mall is going to be. CF Chinook’s always going to be number one in the market and Chinook’s always going to get your luxury brands. CF Market Mall is number two in the market and we’re well ahead of all the other competition in terms of that placement when you measure by productivity.
“So our feeling is that the way that we’re going to continue to grow is we have to do a better job at driving nighttime traffic. That’s where the Boston Pizza deal came from. They opened this past November. That’s why The Keg deal came in too because we wanted to have a nicer restaurant for the evening and that’s where the Landmark theatre deal came as well. Landmark is going to start construction late March, early April with likely a September opening.”
The new five-screen theatre is going in the southwest corner of the shopping centre in the space formerly occupied by Staples.
Milne said that continuing with that strategy the mall will probably be looking at another entertainment option next year to just continue to drive that nighttime traffic.
The mall’s productivity at the end of December was $901 sales per square foot which was about two per cent higher than the previous year. According to the Canadian Shopping Centre Study 2018, by the Retail Council of Canada, CF Market Mall was ranked 17th overall in Canada with sales productivity of $899 per square feet as of the end of June 2018. CF Chinook Centre was eighth at $1,081.
“There’s a lot of construction going on in the mall right now,” said Milne.
“We relocated Sunrise Records because we wanted to relocate Foot Locker. The new Foot Locker store is being built right now. The other store that we’re building right now is Poppy Barley which we’re pretty excited about. They’re obviously higher-end hand bags and boots and things like that and they don’t have a lot of stores in the market.”
“I think retail as a whole has been a little tougher in the last couple of years. We’ve seen a lot of bankruptcies which creates a lot of vacancy. Shopping centres are in the business of having high occupancy and low vacancy. When we have high occupancy and low vacancy we’re a much more profitable business,” said Milne. “When you have as many bankruptcies as we’ve had that puts downward pressure on lease rates and you also see downward pressure on overall mall sales.
“I know what we’re really happy about in this past year is we’re starting to see a bounce back in sales. We’re off the bottom from what we were. Retail sales are starting to get better. Mall traffic has been better. It’s still not great and there are still some challenges in the market. We saw just (recently) Payless, Gymboree and Things Remembered have all gone bankrupt. We only had Payless and Gymboree of those three.”
Milne said CF Market Mall will continue to be a super regional shopping centre that will continue to be number two in the market with a strong retail focus.
“Having said that, some of the leasing that we’re doing is more on the service side of retail. A good example of that is the wing by Shoppers Drug Mart has become a little bit more of a service wing in terms of Hakim Optical was added to replace the Telus store. The Rogers store relocated,” he said.
Many shopping centres have started to use space on their properties for mixed-use development to include residential and office. Will CF Market Mall look at that opportunity in the future for its property?
“Do you want to do residential on the site or not? Do you want more office on the site or not? I think we are three or four years away from starting those discussions. What’s unique about CF Market Mall is we are surrounded by four residential communities and so we like to be cognizant about what we do on the site and how that impacts the residential communities around us. We work closely with those communities,” said Milne.
“So if we’re going to enter into a process that we are going to talk about mixed-use on the site, part of that has to be to include the communities in those discussions and how that looks as well.”
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.