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Malls reimagined: What the pandemic could mean for retail
CALGARY -- More closures across the retail sector have experts predicting a new future for the way we shop.
The parent company of Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works announced Thursday that hundreds of locations in Canada and the U.S. are permanently closing.
The announcement comes a day after the U.S. retail chain Pier 1 revealed it has gone out of business and is in the process of closing all 540 of its stores in the U.S. and Canada.
And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Footwear retailer Aldo and fashion chain Reitmans have filed for creditor protection, and both Neiman Marcus and J. Crew filed for bankruptcy in early May.
The pandemic has many retailers scrambling to stay afloat, but others are reporting upticks in sales, thanks to online shopping. Experts say those who are currently thriving are retailers with an already-strong Internet strategy.
But while clicking through and picking up may not be going anywhere, some believe there’s more to the retail changes on the horizon.
“There’s a big rethink coming in the mall sector,” Doug Stephens, founder of Retail Prophet said. “This could be the end of this term, as management and developers are rethinking (the mall).”
“It all amounts to a huge shakeup in the industry.”
The closing stores leave behind a lot of unoccupied space, and Stephens believes it could be filled in a different way.
He says shoppers can expect to see fewer big box stores, and more entertainment, fitness and food hubs. He think restaurants or gyms could soon be the big players in shopping centres.
“It’s not the death of the retail industry, but it really is the end of an era,” Stephens said. “If you were weak going into this crisis, you’re not going to make it out of this crisis.“
Fewer big stores could mean space for smaller local businesses to move in.
Stephens said he believes malls could soon be one or two larger centres — like a movie theatre and bar, for example — alongside stores that have a tough time adapting to the new “digital era.”
George Condon, who owns Gios Collections For Men in Downtown Calgary, tells CTV News he’s had a hard time with online sales, as many of his clientele come into the store for tailoring and fashion advice.
Condon says he also anticipates a change in the way we shop. “I think it’s more or less you’ll go to your destination, get what you need, and then leave.”
“We have to adapt and we have to adjust.”
As for Calgary malls, doors are open, but many individual stores still remain closed.
Experts almost unanimously agree a traffic decrease is to be expected at malls over the next year or two.