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City hopes to attract retailers with new study

By: Viola Pruss

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Dec 04, 2013 06:00 am

BOX FANS – A new survey shows that St. Albert residents love their big-box stores.
BOX FANS – A new survey shows that St. Albert residents love their big-box stores.
FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

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A new study will aid the city in reaching its goal of attracting new retailers, says a senior official with St. Albert’s economic development team.

The retail market analysis was presented before city council on Monday evening. It shows that – on average – St. Albertans have the second highest income per household and per capita in the province.

It also examines their shopping habits and retail demands, based on 351 phone interviews conducted with local residents by Colliers International Consulting in June.

The results will now allow the city’s economic development branch to better attract potential investors and developers by showing them city demographics, income statistics and what types of retailers are lacking in the community, said Guy Boston, executive director of economic development.

“To go with them with just a business card doesn’t quite cut it,” he told council. “Going to them with these types of mechanisms in our back pocket certainly does serve in getting their attention.”

High demand for clothes, cars and furniture

Clothing stores, furniture stores and car dealerships are the types of retailers that are most lacking in St. Albert, the study shows.

These sectors show a large amount of leakage, meaning the number of residents who leave the city to buy products is higher than those shopping within the city.

The study says that St. Albert requires about 106,000 square feet of additional space to balance present supply and demand for furniture stores. The leakage for car dealerships is about 763,000 square feet, and 102,000 square feet for clothing stores.

In total, the city would have to more than double its retail space (it now has 2.2 million square feet) to address present shopping demands. That gap is expected to grow in the next 20 to 25 years as more residents move to the community.

The study cannot promise to attract specific stores to St. Albert but should help the economic development branch to boost the interest of any retailer that is considering a move here, said Boston in an interview Tuesday morning.

“Furniture alley is right down St. Albert Trail. Are we going to convince those furniture stores to move to St. Albert? I don’t think so,” he said. “Can we convince other furniture outlets … to come into St. Albert because of our demographics? I think there is a real opportunity there.”

More liquor stores, enough restaurants

Boston added that the study shows a high demand for big-box stores, which has now been partially satisfied with the arrival of Costco.

Although his team received complaints about the high number of liquor stores in the community, he said the study also shows that residents expressed a need for more local beer, wine and liquor outlets.

There are, however, enough building material and garden equipment stores in St. Albert, as well as specialty food stores, health and personal care businesses, general merchandise stores and restaurants.

While the retail analysis will be used to attract new businesses to the city, Boston stressed that it will not be used to keep other retailers out.

“I don’t think planning and development is going to pass or approve a development permit on the basis of the retail market analysis,” he said. “It’s entirely up to the free market.”

Boston said the city has the capacity to accommodate several million square feet of retail based on land available, though he does not believe that all of these lands will turn into retail.

Some of the land that could be used for future retail developments is now located in South Riel, near the Enjoy Centre, in the employment lands in the northwest corner of the city or in North Ridge across Highway 2 and south of the Costco.

He added that the study will now be made available to local developers, such as Cameron Development, which owns the land south of Costco.

His team will wait until the new year though before aggressively promoting the study with other retailers and potential investors, as most of them are now focused on the Christmas season, he said.

The full report will soon be made available at cultivatebusiness.ca.


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