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Canadian Tire's plans for Kelowna reflect broader market shifts

Retailers see a return to in-person shopping as an opportunity to up their game
Canadian Tire building
Canadian Tire is investing $1.2 billion in its stores to reposition them for a new era of omnichannel shopping.

Plans by Canadian Tire to relocate its Kelowna store to the former Costco site in the city reflects broader trends in the country’s retail sector.

An email from the company to Castanet responding to specific questions pertaining to the move outlined intentions to build a brand new store at the corner of highways 97 and 33. The site was home to Costco, which relocated to a new and expanded location on Baron Road a year ago.

"The proposed store will be a new building that will replace the existing building on the property," a statement attributed to Canadian Tire Corp. says. "It will have our latest in-store technology and more than double our selling space at the current location from just over 51,000 square feet today to 108,000 square feet.”

Canadian Tire said it will invest an estimated $25 million in the project, part of a $1.2 billion investment in the company's store network.

It will include an expansion of product categories and assortment, and an enhanced "omnichannel" experience.

Costco also expanded, with the 167,000-square-foot store having 25 per cent more floor space and more than triple the number of parking spots. It also added a number of specialty departments, both for groceries and health care. A 24-pump gas bar was also added.

Reporting on the retail sector this week, Cushman & Wakefield said that the return to in-person shopping has prompted several retailers to reposition themselves post-pandemic.

“[Retailers] are expanding and repositioning themselves to maximize their square footage. They are creating enticing experiences for consumers with their unique features such as licensed service seating areas that offer food, beverages, and alcohol,” it reported. “Zellers, the beloved bargain retailer, has returned to the Canadian market after an 11-year hiatus. They plan to open 25 stores across Canada with four in B.C. all within existing HBC retail stores.”

Cushman & Wakefield also called out recent moves by outdoor outfitter Arc’teryx;s incorporation of a service centre to assess and repair products at its new location in Kitsilano and Apple’s new flagship store in downtown Vancouver that offers free customer learning and engagement sessions.

“Retailers are innovating and positioning themselves for continued success amid economic uncertainty,” Cushman & Wakefield said.

Canadian Tire’s development permit application has yet to be approved by Kelowna city council, but its expansion plans are another example of the ongoing innovation taking place in the retail sector.

Despite being buffeted by public health restrictions and consumers’ embrace of e-commerce during the pandemic, vacancy rates in Metro Vancouver indicate strong demand by tenants seeking to re-engage with consumers.

Within Metro Vancouver, Cushman & Wakefield’s survey of 92 locations found that regional malls (larger than 375,000 square feet) and community malls (110,000 to 375,000 square feet) have seen vacancies fall over the past year to 5.3 per cent and 1.7 per cent, respectively.

Retailers that depended on office traffic have not fared so well, however. Similar to Colliers, which earlier this week reported an uptick in downtown vacancies as a result of ongoing effects of the pandemic, Cushman & Wakefield reported a 12 per cent increase in shops at the base of downtown office towers in Vancouver.

“This could be due in part to the persistent post-pandemic hybrid work model as occupancy in office towers remains at historic lows,” it suggested. “Consequently, retailers in ground floor retail units in office towers will likely continue to experience reduced customer flow.”