Last time, I talked about Polo Park and how it contributed to the demise of retailing downtown, how it was physically unattractive and how it was affecting traffic in a district that was never meant to serve as many vehicles as it does now.
Today, I'll take back some of my criticism laid at the feet of Polo Park. To be fair, the downtown demise of retailing was being duplicated in every major urban area in North America. Large department stores like Eaton's and The Bay were inevitably going to challenged by specialized retailers and they knew it. That is why these two particular stores were on the ground floor when it came to mall development. They became the anchor stores in new developments along with Simpsons Sears (later Sears).
Eaton's was the first to feel the change to suburban retailing. They dumped their catalogue division in 1976 putting hundreds of Winnipeggers out of work in the process.
The big department stores became victims of the success of other retailers in the mall. In short, they couldn't compete with the variety offered at some of the clothing and shoe stores and other specialty retailers in the mall. Worse, the dominance the big department had in appliances and televisions was being challenged by new retailers located near large malls. In Winnipeg, this was the introduction of Advance and Krazy Kelly's and later Future Shop as stores to go to in search for your TV, stereo and with Future Shop, your fridge and washer/dryer.
It was all too much for Eaton's which collapsed in 1999. The name was revived by Sears for a short time and they tried to operate a few of the old Eaton's locations but that experiment ended a few short years later in 2002.
The Bay, which long coveted a spot in Polo Park jumped at the chance to occupy Eaton's old location which put a big question mark on their downtown department store which remains to this day.
So, in 2007, the mall is going through its third major renovation. What does the future hold?
Continued in Part 3.
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