Walmart's move to Bayshore offers groceries, convenience, says general manager

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Tom Pechloff
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While Walmart is getting ready to celebrate its grand opening at Bayshore Shopping Centre Thursday, there are likely not as many happy faces among tenants at Lincoln Fields Shopping Centre, one retail analyst says.

Deputy Mayor Mark Taylor joined Walmart manager Jeff Rodrigue Jan. 28 to cut the ribbon for Walmart's new location at Bayshore Shopping Centre.

The U.S. department store giant will close the doors of its location at Lincoln Fields for good on Wednesday night. But Barry Nabatian of Shore Tanner & Associates said the short-term pain of a vacant anchor tenant spot might actually provide mall management with an opportunity for future growth.

“They may have to do basically a rebranding, a good study of who their clients are, what’s their age and income group, where they’re coming (from) and what they need that they’re not offering now,” he said, adding that the results may be a bit surprising.

“There are a number of new condominiums within driving distance and more are planned, so I think that income levels there are going up as well,” he said.

Still, a discount retailer might be the best bet to fill the space, said Mr. Nabatian, adding that Marshalls, which has been on an aggressive expansion trajectory since entering Canada in 2011, could be a good fit.

“Otherwise, they would have to subdivide it and still, there are a lot of discount-type stores they could bring, factory outlet type of stores they could bring,” he said.

Mall owner RioCan has been in the headlines recently for its plans to redevelop the Westgate Shopping Centre, Gloucester Centre and Elmvale Acres by adding rental apartment buildings as high as 36 storeys on each property.

Mr. Nabatian said Lincoln Fields could be a candidate for a similar redevelopment.

As for Bayshore, Mr. Nabatian said he thinks the mall is more relieved than happy with Walmart’s arrival.

“In a way, they’re just trying to fill up the space because it is vacant and it just happens that Walmart was interested,” he said. “Clearly, they haven’t been able to get anybody else. Otherwise they would have.”

Mr. Nabatian said Walmart might not be the perfect fit for the mall, but Bayshore general manager Denis Pelletier disagrees.

“Our retailers are very excited,” he said. “Walmart is known to draw tremendous traffic wherever they are. The expectation is they will have a lot of crossover traffic as a result. I think that’s fair to say.”

Mr. Pelletier said the chain will fit just fine with the mall’s other retailers because even people in the market for pricier fashion items might need a basic extension cord or a pair of flip-flops for their kids. Higher-end consumers still like convenience, he added, and Walmart offers it.

“They’ve got a lot of stuff,” he said. “If you’re looking for something, there’s a pretty good chance they’ve got it.”

That includes groceries and fresh produce, something that hasn’t been available at a store in Bayshore since 2007. Shoppers have also missed not having a pharmacy, Mr. Pelletier said.

Mr. Nabatian said groceries will make up no more than 20 per cent of the space at the new Bayshore SuperCentre, but it will still address the nine-year absence of a food store.

Mr. Pelletier said he hopes Bayshore can help Walmart promote the e-grocery offering it has been testing in Ottawa for the past several months, since that would add even more convenience for Bayshore shoppers.

Mr. Pelletier said losing the Target store before it even opened “caused a half step back” for Bayshore, but the mall never lost any rental revenue because trustees took over the Target lease until it was transferred over to Walmart.

“That being said, planning on having an anchor open and not having it happen, it’s not ideal,” he said.

But Bayshore has been resilient, and the latest mix of retail offerings is working, Mr. Pelletier said.

“This is going to add another level, another dimension to it.”

Organizations: Walmart, Shore Tanner Associates, Marshalls Westgate Shopping Centre Gloucester Centre

Geographic location: Bayshore, U.S., Canada Ottawa

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