The table is being set for a grocery store to move into downtown Saskatoon, but it’s too early to say when, or even if, it will happen.
The Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority (SREDA) has various incentive programs for growth and expansion in place – although nothing specific for a grocery store – but further consideration could be given for grants and tax abatements for a potential grocery operator.
David Gauthier, SREDA’s vice-president of corporate development and investor relations, has had discussions with one “fairly large” chain that is looking at property just outside of the downtown core and another local entrepreneur considering opening up a smaller grocery store in some vacant space downtown.
“I can’t say who they are but those discussions are happening,” he said.
The closure of Good Food Junction six months ago has left a gaping hole in the service offering in downtown Saskatoon and also contributed to a rising vacancy rate in the central business district. The challenge, however, will be convincing a potential operator that there will be sufficient volume from such a store and that they could earn a big enough margin to make it worthwhile.
Downtown grocers tend to have smaller margins because of higher levels of shoplifting and higher lease costs.
“Without a grocery store, fewer people are going to choose to live downtown. It’s a vital part of keeping things from getting worse and hopefully getting things back on track,” Gauthier said.