By Craig Patterson
Landlord Oxford Properties is adding a unique entertainment attraction to its Square One property in Mississauga. In October, the world’s first ‘The Dr. Seuss Experience’ will open in a standalone site across from the massive shopping centre, with a goal of increasing traffic to the area while also attracting visitors from the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.
The Dr. Seuss Experience was created in a partnership by Kilburn Live and Dr. Seuss Enterprises, which will see the traveling entertainment concept open in several cities in North America for a limited run. The Square One activation opens to the public on October 26 and will be open for at least three months, according to Square One’s General Manager Greg Taylor.
The 15,000 square foot Dr Seuss-branded experience centre will occupy a standalone building at 199 Rathburn Road and it will be highly immersive and experiential. The space will provide a “journey” with separated rooms themed after Dr. Seuss stories and characters. That includes areas dedicated to “The Cat In The Hat” to “Horton Hears A Who!” and “The Lorax,” as well as other timeless favourites that will be brought to life in the new Dr. Seuss Experience centre.
At the centre of the Dr. Seuss Experience will be an inter-connected maze inspired by “Oh The Places You’ll Go!” story that will be comprised of thousands of suspended balloons. Each of the rooms in the Dr. Seuss Experience centre will be colourful and will no doubt be photographed by those posting to social media such as Instagram. The company says that the centre will also explore the social message at the heart of each featured story showcased in the new space.
As well, The Dr. Seuss Experience centre will include a themed carousel, as well as a retail space where visitors can purchase Dr. Seuss-related merchandise. Tickets for Square One’s experience centre go on sale on September 13th and advance ticket registration opened this week.
Mississauga will be the first of several markets in North America for the traveling Dr. Seuss Experience. The company says that it will also launch similar concepts next year in Seattle, Boston and Houston.
The Dr. Seuss Experience is being used to drive traffic to the Square One District, which includes the massive enclosed Square One shopping centre as well as surrounding buildings. Landlord Oxford Properties owns about 130 acres in the Square One District, which is expected to eventually see redevelopment as Square One transforms as an integral component to downtown Mississauga.
Given the strong brand awareness of the Dr. Seuss brand, visitors from the Greater Toronto Area and beyond are expected to come to the new activation. Oxford Properties has been adding attractions and other non-traditional retail uses to the centre with great success. Sources confirm that the landlord will also roll-out other entertainment centres in at least two of its properties, with details to follow.
In the spring of 2019, Square One unveiled a food hall called ‘The Food District’, which has proven to be a success by driving foot traffic to the centre while bringing in visitors from a wider trade area. In the spring, as well, Cineplex concept ‘The Rec Room’ opened across from the Food District, both in a space once occupied by Target and in years prior, an Eaton’s department store. Japanese fashion retailer Uniqlo and ‘cultural department store’ Indigo also occupy the same former Target space.
In an earlier interview, Square One’s Greg Taylor explained how Square One saw increased foot traffic after the opening of the Food District as well as The Rec Room. At the same time, sales in the mall’s upgraded food court and full-service restaurants also saw impressive increases after both opened in the spring. The Dr. Seuss experience will become yet another attraction for the Square One District, which also features Cineplex-owned entertainment and amusement concept Playdium in a freestanding building across from The Dr. Seuss experience.
The building at 199 Rathburn, itself, was once home to retailer Solutions and prior to that a combined Sport Chek and Atmosphere retail storefront. In the fall of 2015, Sport Chek relocated into a massive 73,300 square foot space within Square One that was once a Sears anchor — Quebec City-based La Maison Simons occupies the rest of the former Sears space.
Square One is one of Canada’s largest, busiest and most productive shopping centres. That’s according to the Retail Council of Canada Shopping Centre Study, which will be releasing updated numbers this fall (with details to follow). The Square One shopping centre itself sees about 23 million annual visitors in a centre that spans more than 2 million square feet of retail space, with sales per square foot for non-anchor reporting tenants in excess of $1,100 annually. The centre is one of only a handful in Canada to boast annual retail sales in excess of $1 billion.
Square One is the only major shopping centre in North America to feature a Walmart store in the same mall as a luxury department store. Holt Renfrew, which opened an impressive flagship store at Square One in the summer of 2016, is at the opposite end of the mall from Walmart, which operates one of its top-selling stores at the centre. The only La Maison Simons store in southern Ontario is located at Square One, featuring a wide range of fashion brands from reasonably priced private-label designs to luxury brands such as Balmain. Square One also features a wide range of retailers from the affordable to luxury brands such as Salvatore Ferragamo and Rolex. In all, Square One boasts about 350 retailers and 8,700 parking stalls, and even includes valet parking to attract monied shoppers.
Shopping centre landlords across Canada are adding entertainment to diversify offerings and attract consumers. Oxford Properties and other landlords have invested billions of dollars over the past decade to upgrade shopping centre properties, which has led to a polarization where the top malls continue to see success. In years to come, we will see more entertainment-focused additions to shopping centres in Canadian markets. This fall, for example, the Vaughan Mills in suburban Toronto will launch the world’s first Cirque du Soleil ‘creative centre’, which is expected to further increase traffic to that centre.
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd. Email Craig: email@example.com