Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Manitoba: Retail wasteland?

Shopping space behind other cities

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Manitobans will spend more money this Christmas than in 2011, even though on a per capita basis, they have fewer places to spend it than many of their big-city counterparts, according to a new report from Colliers International.

The commercial real estate services firm said Manitobans are expected to spend about $1.67 billion this December -- about three per cent more than the $1.64 billion they spent in December 2011.

That's despite the fact Winnipeg is one of the worst-served Canadian cities when it comes to square feet of shopping mall and retail power-centre space per person, the report added. Power centres are areas with a number of big-box stores.

It said the Manitoba capital has only 10.57 square feet of shopping-mall space per person and 4.52 square feet of power-centre space. Both are third lowest among the 10 Canadian cities surveyed.

Halifax, by comparison, has nearly twice as much mall space per capita -- a country-leading 19.05 square feet. And the leader in the power-centre category -- Edmonton -- has more than twice as much per capita space as Winnipeg, at 9.66 square feet.

The only two cities with less per capita mall space are Victoria and Montreal, at 9.31 and 10.52, respectively, the report said. And for power-centre space, it's Victoria at 3.99 and Vancouver at 3.32.

But take heart, power-centre fans. A local Colliers official said our low ranking will get a big boost when the IKEA-led Seasons of Tuxedo shopping centre and several other new retail developments come on stream over the next few years.

"In 2013 and 2014, you should see us moving up quite a bit (in the power-centre rankings)," said John Prall, vice-president of retail brokerage services with Colliers' Winnipeg office.

Prall said he sees more good news than bad in the Winnipeg numbers. He noted one of the reasons our per capita numbers are lower is because Manitoba's population has been growing at a faster-than-usual rate. That bodes well for retailers and retail sales, he said.

And the fact we have a lower inventory of power-centre space means the market should have no trouble absorbing the new stores, he said, and in attracting more retailers and retail developers to the city.

Prall and James Smerdon, Colliers director of retail and consulting, also noted Manitoba is on track to finish with the fifth-strongest retail sales growth in the country for all of 2012, at a projected 4.2 per cent.

Although Alberta and Saskatchewan are looking at retail sales growth of more than six per cent this year, Smerdon said their fast-growing economies are drawing people from all over the country.

So those people end up spending their money there, rather than in their old home provinces.

"Alberta is growing at the expense of almost every other province in the country, and Manitoba is no exception," he said.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 20, 2012 B3

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