Once riddled with pandemic-related store closures, the tenancy rate at St. Albert Centre is set to reach 97 per cent this fall, a jump from the 92 per cent seen at the beginning of the year, according to mall manager Jillian Creech.
Earlier this year a few long-standing businesses closed their gates for good, such as electronics shop The Source and the Transat travel agency, but with the opening of St. Albert Further Education's community space, Flags International, the SHAVA bookstore, and a host of other shops planning to open soon, Creech says the mall has fully recovered.
“Coming out of the pandemic, leasing activity is picking up," Creech said.
Eight new businesses are set to open in the mall before the year's end, Creech said, including temporary pop-up stores such as Karries Kostumes, and Santa's Gifts, which will sell personalized ornaments. Long-term tenants planning to open soon include The Seven80 clothing store; Hickory Farms & Calendar Club; Beck's Antiques & Jewellery; clothing store Just Cozy; and sleepwear store Lazy Ones.
Currently under construction in the food court is a Freshly Squeezed location, which Creech said she believes will be open in November.
"Overall, St. Albert Centre’s sales productivity has rebounded to even surpass 2019 levels, which has us optimistic that the attraction of a new tenant mix will continue to pick up momentum,” Creech said regarding the commerce side of the mall's occupants.
Creech added that for the 12-month period between July 2021 and July of this year, the mall's sales per square foot was 5.4 per cent higher than the same period ending in July of 2019, which was $465.
Sales per square foot is a commonly used metric to measure the success of retail stores. In the Retail Council of Canada's most recent shopping centre study from 2019, only two malls in Alberta made the top 30 list for highest sales per square foot.
The Retail Council placed Southgate Centre in Edmonton fifth, with a sales-per-square-foot measurement of $1,121, and Cadillac Fairview Market Mall in Calgary was placed at 16, with a sales per square foot of $914.
In first was Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto, which reported an annual sales per square foot of $1,964.
Despite the increased tenancy rate, two store managers told The Gazette they haven't seen many changes in the mall so far this year.
“It’s pretty dead," said Liz Drapeau, store manager at Claire's. "Places are closing; places are opening."
“This is kind of a dying mall, honestly,” said Drapeau, who joined the location in the spring after working at the company's Kingsway Mall location.
"Obviously it’s going to pick up for the holidays, but nowhere near as much as some of the other places."
Ivan Mallorca, manager at Paris Jewellers, said her store has been busy recently with engagement ring sales, but her sense is that overall mall traffic remains slow.
“I find it’s way slower because there’s a lot of stores closing. We just had a kiosk open in front of us, and she lasted two weeks,” Mallorca said.
“I’m surprised at how many empty storefronts are in this mall. My walk from my store to the food court is like five [empty] stores.”
Creech said mall traffic is still normalizing, and how the new businesses opening soon will affect the amount of shopper traffic remains to be seen.