Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Disney Corp. pulling store out of Winnipeg

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MICKEY Mouse and the gang are saying good-bye to Winnipeg.A spokesperson for Disney Corp. confirmed Monday it is closing its lone Winnipeg retail store on April 1.

Shawn Turner said the U.S.-based entertainment giant is launching a new store design this summer in the United States and Europe, and is reviewing its entire retail operations as part of that process.

She said it won't be renewing the leases for a number of its stores, including the one at St. Vital Centre.

Turner said she couldn't comment on why the Winnipeg store is closing. She also wouldn't rule out the possibility of the company opening a store at another Winnipeg location.

"Maybe down the line, when we have our new store design. But we don't know that at this point."

St. Vital Centre's general manager, Cheryl Mazur, said she first learned of the pending closing when a sign to that effect was posted in the store's window recently. She said she's still awaiting official confirmation from either Disney or the company (20 VIC Management Inc.) that manages the shopping centre on behalf of its owner, the Ontario Pension Board.

Mazur said there is a waiting list of retailers looking to get into the south Winnipeg shopping centre, so they shouldn't have any trouble finding a new tenant for the nearly 4,000-square-foot space.

She said she wasn't sure how long the Disney store has been there, but it's been at least five or six years.

Mazur said she was surprised when she saw the sign in the window.

"Our Disney Store is fabulous. The manager has done amazing things with that store."

The store's manager was unavailable for comment Monday.

The pending closing is a rare bit of bad news for one of the city's largest and most successful shopping malls, which boasts about 160 stores, nearly one million square feet of retail space, and only 700 square feet of vacant space at the moment.

Earlier this month, Mazur confirmed that two high-profile retail chains -- U.S.-based Bath & Body Works and Canadian-based Boathouse -- will soon be making their Winnipeg debut at St. Vital Centre. The former sells shower gels, lotions, candles and accessories, while the latter specializes in trendy, youth-oriented fashions and accessories.

Mazur said Monday that Boathouse's 5,000-square-foot store and Bath & Body Works 2,750-square-foot outlet should both be opening within the next few months. And one of the mall's popular tenants -- American Eagle -- is also doubling the size of its store by moving into the recently vacated Fairweather outlet next door in the mall.

She said the new store will be about 6,600 to 6,7000 square feet in size, and should be open in April or May.

"There are some really good things happening here," she said.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 26, 2010 B5

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