Disruption to retail, not death

It’s easy to see the bad news stories about brick and mortar stores shuttering from the overwhelming move of consumers to e-commerce.

But I don’t think retail will ever die completely.

Rather, there is a disruption to the way we’ve known it to be and commercial real estate landlords will have to navigate their way through this new landscape.

Not our first rodeo

I think its kind of ironic that we’re almost returning to our roots.

Ordering goods from the comfort of our couch; but I’m not describing Amazon or Ebay.

Have we all forgotten catalogues?!

The earliest catalogue was published in 1498 and was a book advertising, well, books.

The first mail order catalogue in North America was reportedly Tiffany’s Blue Book in 1845.

Most familiar to Canadians would be the T. Eaton Co. catalogue which was first issued in 1884.

Sears Canada was still publishing catalogues right up to the 2016 Wishbook.

Catalogues served a market of consumers that weren’t located near traditional retail, allowing them to access items at a fair market value.

I wouldn’t say Amazon is far off.

Other disrupting forces

I think it’s fair to say the mass introduction of the credit card in the 50s likely changed retail in a huge way.

The rise of television as an advertising medium during the 70s and 80s also had a huge impact on how consumers made buying decisions.

A recent disruptor many of us easily remember is the move from interior malls to big box centres which I’d classify as my least favourite!

The internet is another recent disruptor.

What do the experts say?

I was able to attend the Saskatchewan Real Estate Forum this past month and listened to a few panelists representing traditional retail leasing, including interior malls.

They point to large vacancies as the biggest challenge to their portfolios.

There is no one in the market to fill the void of Sears or Target, so landlords are having to reimagine the spaces while balancing the input costs of converting the vacancy to more tenancies.

They are locking down renewals early and offering inducements to keep tenants in place.

Overall, they were upbeat and maintained there is a role for bricks and mortar in our future.

Saskatchewan, it was noted, has always been an anomaly when it comes to national retailers.

Often considered too small to host large retailers, but burgeoning on the size of too big to ignore anymore.

We are uniquely positioned to welcome many retailers that have not yet been to our market.

For us, I think it’s just a matter of riding the wave to see where retail heads next.

Posted by Kelly Macsymic

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One Comment

  1. Kelly, just a quick note to say I thought your recent article was right on. Of all the millions of words/bytes by authors too numerous to count…your analysis in my view was concise, accurate and closest to describing the Canadian retail life cycle as I have experienced it. Well done.

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