Building Magazine


Canadian cities face increased competition for retail expansion dollars

Once the darlings of the retail world, Canadian cities now have to compete more aggressively for retailer expansion dollars. With global markets largely recovered from the recession, retailers now have an increased number of expansion opportunities to consider. How Global is the Business of Retail, a new report from CBRE, analyzes the operations of 334 leading retailers in 61 countries and suggests that cross border retail activity continues to accelerate around the world; however, the Canadian retail market recorded fewer new entrants last year.

In 2012, Canada ranked sixth in the world for the most new foreign entrants into the retail market, while Toronto was listed amongst the 20 most targeted cities. In 2013, Canada no longer ranked among the countries attracting the most new retailers and did not have a city ranked among the top 20 most targeted markets.

“While Canada remains an appealing destination for global retailers, our competitors are catching up and Canada has had to relinquish our unusually large share of the spotlight,” said Ross Moore, Director of Research for CBRE in Canada. “One reason for the decrease in new retailers coming to Canada is that there is little to no vacancy in highly sought after shopping centres and high street locations. It is only natural for there to be a pause while developers and supply chains adjust to the influx of brands from years past.”

Canada still ranks highly in terms of the variety of global retailers that are present in cities across the country. In 2013, Canada had 35 per cent of global retailers present, enough to rank 20th in the world. A city-by-city comparison of retailer penetration rates reveals that Toronto slipped from 37th to 38th place, Vancouver jumped from 56th to 51st, Calgary climbed one spot to 76th and Montréal held steady at 83rd.

“The retailers that entered Canada with a limited number of stores have been busy expanding their footprint across the country,” Moore noted. “No longer satisfied with a single location, usually in Toronto, we have seen retailers pursue opportunities in Vancouver, Calgary and Montréal. As a result, most Canadian cities had their rankings improve in terms of overall retailer representation.”

The luxury and business fashion category accounted for the bulk of cross border retail activity in 2013, both globally and in Canada. Tory Burch, John Varvatos, and De Beers are just a few of the retailers from this category that opened stores in Canada last year. Homewares and food were the other active categories. Remarkably, more than a third of all new entrants into Canada chose to open their first location in one shopping centre – Yorkdale Mall in Toronto.

The continued strength of malls like Yorkdale reflects a key finding of the report. The shopping centre format was found to be remarkably strong globally and shopping centre construction is at an all-time high. This is certainly the Canadian experience, as landlords continue to invest in improvements, alter the tenant mix and maximize shopping centre footprints.

“Canada’s top shopping malls are becoming entertainment destinations, transportation hubs and new neighbourhoods. We have not seen the end of shopping centre revitalization and expansion in Canada,” Moore said.

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