November 12, 2018

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Editorial

Outlet mall opening a big deal, or maybe not

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/5/2017 (558 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Once again, Winnipeg is entering a brave new world of retail shopping. Well, not exactly new — but new to us here in River City.

Wednesday's opening of Outlet Collection Winnipeg, a 400,000-square-foot complex that will eventually feature nearly 100 stores, is one of those moments in the city's evolution that will be met with frenzied enthusiasm by some and complete indifference by others.

It's a high-profile, high-concentration commercial enterprise, and perhaps it says something about us that its arrival hasn't driven anyone into a shopaholic swoon punctuated by declarations that Winnipeg has finally, in one way or another, arrived.

Contrast the relatively low-key opening of Outlet Collection Winnipeg with the arrival of its neighbour Ikea in November 2012, when nearly 20,000 people joined in a door-crashing opening-day frenzy. The presence of the Swedish furniture giant in this city was seen as a symbol that Winnipeg was becoming something it had always wanted to be, or perhaps something that it was so many years before and longed to become again.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/5/2017 (558 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Once again, Winnipeg is entering a brave new world of retail shopping. Well, not exactly new — but new to us here in River City.

Wednesday's opening of Outlet Collection Winnipeg, a 400,000-square-foot complex that will eventually feature nearly 100 stores, is one of those moments in the city's evolution that will be met with frenzied enthusiasm by some and complete indifference by others.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Outlet Collection Winnipeg opens today.</p>

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Outlet Collection Winnipeg opens today.

It's a high-profile, high-concentration commercial enterprise, and perhaps it says something about us that its arrival hasn't driven anyone into a shopaholic swoon punctuated by declarations that Winnipeg has finally, in one way or another, arrived.

Contrast the relatively low-key opening of Outlet Collection Winnipeg with the arrival of its neighbour Ikea in November 2012, when nearly 20,000 people joined in a door-crashing opening-day frenzy. The presence of the Swedish furniture giant in this city was seen as a symbol that Winnipeg was becoming something it had always wanted to be, or perhaps something that it was so many years before and longed to become again.

Those were somewhat different times. Still in the afterglow of 2011's Jets-return celebration, and with construction cranes high above two major projects — the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the Bombers' new home, Investors Group Field — the opening of Ikea had many locals crowing that their city was on the way to somewhere, or to being something.

Subsequent events, however, have tempered whatever optimism was fuelled by the Ikea-opening fuss and replaced it with a sentiment that feels more familiar to Winnipeggers: skepticism.

IGF has turned out to be a poorly constructed boondoggle, beset by structural deficiencies and either ignored or outright rejected by many Winnipeggers for a myriad of reasons, ranging from location and parking to the dismal performance of its resident CFL team. Other construction-project controversies, such as the massively over-budget downtown police headquarters, have raised Winnipeggers' unease about next-big-thing unveilings.

The shopping complex whose presence on the former stadium site at Polo Park was expected to generate tax revenue to underwrite IGF's cost failed to materialize, its premature doom cemented by the implosion of United States retailer Target's badly bungled Canadian-market foray. We'll never know how enthusiastically Winnipeggers would have embraced that project, but we shall soon learn if there's an appetite for new shopping options in the amply serviced southwest quadrant of the city.

It's possible, of course, that Winnipeg is arriving entirely too late at the outlet-shopping party. The concept has been popular in other cities for at least a couple of decades, inviting masses of consumers to relatively out-of-the-way retail clusters in search of discounted — and, in many cases, lower-quality — versions of big-name stores' wares.

For many Winnipeggers, a trip to the States isn't complete without a stop at the discount mall. In recent years, however, the allure of the outlet-mall experience has been diminished by the ailing Canadian dollar and savvy shoppers' awareness that outlet deals and merchandise aren't all they're cracked up to be. For younger consumers, as well, the rising popularity of online retailing sites has presented a competitive and convenient alternative to bricks-and-mortar shopping centres.

There's sure to be a crowd when Outlet Collection Winnipeg's doors slide open for the first time Wednesday. What really matters, however, is how many cars will populate the mall's parking lot six months or a year from now.

 

 

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