Sunday, August 12, 2007

Polo Park Part 4

After location, the next important decision a mall manager can make is content.

In Polo Park's case the first thought was the anchor stores that were to be the main draw. Initially, those stores were Eaton's and Sears and in the grocery department, it was Loblaw's and Dominion which in a unique match-up stood across from one another within the mall. In the center of the mall were the jewelery stores facing off against one another.

Dominion stores went out of business and this became the impetus for many malls across Canada to do the renovations that they did in the 1980s. Loblaw's eventually became Real Canadian Superstar.

After the 1986 renovation of Polo Park, the anchor stores were Sears, Eaton's, Zellers and Safeway. There was a Coles and a WHSmith in the book department. There was a barber and hairstylist, a record store, some banks, a Boots store from Britain, shoe stores and men and women's fashion stores. Some of the youth oriented stores were Roots and Club Monaco on the second floor.

The food court was an important addition for the mall to remain competitive with developments in St. Vital Centre and elsewhere in the city.

In 2007, prior to the mall renovation some of the stores and services have changed with the changes in technology. There are now a few cell phone and electronic companies hawking their wares such as Telus and The Source. An old standbys like RadioShack is no longer in the mall.

Polo Park has reinforced its reputation as being the number one spot for jewellers in the province with nine of some of the most prominent names in the field facing off against one another in the mall, many near the center of it.

As one walks around the mall though, aside from the food court in one place and jewellers near the center of the mall, it is hard to get a sense of theme. Children's clothing is spread out all over the mall over different floors. Men and women's apparel is spread out with some popular stores placed in odd places where traffic is lighter.

It isn't like this in other malls where conglomerations of certain stores create an energy that attracts people.

How is that Lululemon or Billabong end up way out on the second floor surrounded by stores that create no synergy between them?

Perhaps the mall management will try to remedy the situation once the renovations are complete but some of the stores have been where they've been for some time.

One of the unfortunate oversights in the mall has been the lack of any bookstore for some time. That will soon be corrected with the addition of McNally Robinson in the spot soon to be vacated by SportCheck. This is a huge plus for the mall and big improvement on the old Coles and will be about the size of their main store at the Grant Park Shopping Centre.

Aside from a general re-organization of stores in the mall to play to certain themes, mall management ought to go after certain stores that would be unique to the Winnipeg market such as AĆ©ropostale and Hollister.

I'll reserve further judgment on Polo Park until renovations are done. It is quite clear though that mall improvements have been needed for quite some time. That goes for the entire surrounding area in terms of traffic flow, parking and overall visuals.

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