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It’s no surprise that retailing in Vancouver is a treasure trove for business owners, and attracts a wide cross market of shoppers from various backgrounds and ages. As Chuck Chiang reports in The Province “Vancouver’s retail market, driven by wealthy locals, tourists taking advantage of the devalued Canadian dollar, and new immigrants, currently ranks as Canada’s top location in terms of annual sales-per-square-foot at more than $1,000. Toronto sits second at around $860.”

“Vancouver is a very young retail market and many brands have not yet opened street stores,” said Mario Negris, executive vice president of CBRE’s (Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis)  retail group in Vancouver. “We anticipate a vast number of new entrants into the downtown retail landscape. … In the mid-market, we anticipate a revitalization on streets such as Robson and Granville as larger international users solidify locations in the market.”

Although we have the consumers, many stores breaking into the Canadian market do not look first to downtown Vancouver. The reason? A lack of leasable storefronts, and wait for it-malls.  “According to recent data from the Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity at Ryerson University, Vancouver’s per-capita mall space (at 11.4 square feet for every person living in the region) falls far behind the same figure for not only Toronto (at 16.4), but also Alberta (15.2 for Calgary, 16.2 for Edmonton)”.

I would argue that with the Vancouver climate, the high modal split to active transportation and transit, that Vancouver is not your typical “mall town”. You’ve got Pacific Centre and Oakridge Mall-and a lot of great retailing storefronts in several commercial areas, that fits into the locals’ ideal of a stroll and a shop at grade on walkable streets.

With predictions that Vancouver’s retail sector will lead the way in sales in Canada,  Muji, a Japanese clothing and accessories store is looking for a downtown location. You may have visited their locations in Toronto, Japan or in Europe. They are well designed and  well-organized. While Vancouver is the home of the  Asian cuisine inspired  T & T Supermarkets that opened their first store in 1993, and has several Goldilocks Bakery locations which specialize in Filipino delicacies, we have yet to attract well-known large Asian retailers which will have instant recognition and bring more diversity to the Vancouver retailing market. Will these new brands reboot retail redevelopment in downtown Vancouver?

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