Monday, January 25, 2016

Sobey's Extra to Open January 29

It took an incredibly long time to replace the Safeway that closed in 2014 in Fort Richmond Plaza. Speculation was rampant and people looked on despair as the ramshackle and outdated shopping center rotted with no plans being put forward.

This comes to an end January 29 when Sobey's Extra opens up. At 58,000 square feet, it will be bigger than a lot of grocery stores out there. It will be much more than what was available previously on the site. That is to be expected with not only Fort Garry but St. Norbert and nearby Bridgwater seeing more people move in.

The Extra in the Sobey's is more staff dedicated to customer service such as in-store chef. There are also specialists called ambassadors who will on hand in various food sections. Cooking classes, sushi bar and noodle bar will mark the location as different from other stores.

The store opens 9 AM Friday and offers $10 gift cards to the first 500 people in the door. There will be also a selection of exotic foods to taste.

The store will employ 100 people which in today's market is welcome news. The refreshing of this particular shopping enclave is likely to attract other merchants after being empty or under-utilized so long. 2016 will be a fairly good year for new grocery stores to open after a number of years of closures.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Walmart Supercenter Southdale Opens January 28

The year 2015 delivered a crushing blow to Target which came to Canada, spent billions and utterly failed. Some of those details of computer problems, logistics, empty shelves and overpaying for property are only coming to light now.

Winnipeg has fared better than some cities who had their Targets closed in that two out of the four properties will re-open with strong retailers. The Grant Park store will become a Canadian Tire in several months. The Southdale store has already been converted over to a Walmart Supercenter which will open next week January 28.

It is obvious that Walmart believes that the southeast quadrant of the city is undeserved and that their nearby location at St. Vital Centre will hold its own just fine. The takeover also blocks competitors save as Save On Foods or Real Canadian Superstore from getting a foothold in the area.

On Thursday, Walmart opened a supercenter in Winkler as part of their plan to move to 400 stores across Canada.

The Polo Park location of Target, bought by Polo Park, remains without a new tenant. Kildonan Place is also awaiting a new tenant.

The opening of a new Walmart is sure to keep up some competition in the area of Southdale especially in food.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Bay Downtown Winnipeg Closes 4th Floor

Hudson Bay Company has announced that the 4th floor of the downtown Winnipeg location will close very soon as the department store retrench to the first two floors. It is interesting to note that there aren't any men's washrooms on the first floors so they have to keep that 4th floor open just for that purpose.

For many years now. the fate of the The Bay has been talked about and hopes were that the University of Winnipeg would ride to the rescue as it seems to have in other times. This remains a possibility but the sheer size of a building that has much space as the Richardson Building is daunting.

The closure of Zellers also meant the closing of the grocery store in the basement. By and large, aside from two floors, the Bay is empty. A lucrative parkade attached to the building is not owned by HBC which might have made development and a way to fund it possible. The lot has always been more practical than lovable in look but at 650 spaces, it is very lucrative.

Often it seems everyone wants to own parking lots rather than buildings as they generate consistent money with little effort.

The Hudson Bay Company has been on a bit of a roll lately even in tough times. It has bought several other department stores including Sak's from the United States and made a profit doing so. However, tough times might be ahead if the economy is any indication. Sak's outlet division has already announced they will be in the Seasons of Tuxedo development rather than in the downtown. Still, there may be an opportunity for Canadian retailers with a prolonged fall in the Canadian dollar.

Any redevelopment into retail, offices, classrooms or the like in the downtown space will be more expensive than other construction. There is also the fact that said development can't happen in a vacuum. There is no unicorn out there that is going to say they want the entire space and have all the capital that they need to get the job done.

HBC sits a fairly choice spot though. Across the street is the headquarters of Investor's Group, Liquor and Lotteries headquarters will soon be in the Medical Arts Building. Manitoba Hydro headquarters is just down the street. The Winnipeg Art Gallery, RBC Winnipeg Convention Centre, MTS Centre, hotels and the University of Winnipeg are all nearby.  In short, there are a lot of attractions not to mention growing residential components coming.

Everyone talks about doing something about the HBC but there is no evidence that a working group is actually discussing the issue. Obviously, The Bay owners need to be asked what they would like for the building and determining what is possible.

Here are 25 things that could go into the The Bay downtown (not ranked in particular order):

1. A HBC data center. The St. Louis IT offices of HBC took up 80.000 square feet. They have a data center in Toronto as well. Why not in a building they own in a central time zone?

2. A grocery store. The basement could still be perfect for this.

3. Home Outfitters. This is a HBC owned division that could be in the building.

4. Saks Fifth Avenue. It is a HBC owned division.

5. Off 5th. HBC owned discount store of Saks.

6. Lord and Taylor. HBC owned department store.

7. The Room. Luxury section of HBC in Toronto and Vancouver could have a version in Winnipeg.

8. Back office functions of HBC and other divisions of the company. Winnipeg once was the head office, why not back office functions in accounting, etc?

9. A fitness center. Despite the Y being nearby, fitness centers can occupy generally 25,000 square feet and attract a good amount of people. Eaton Center has two inside.

10. A health food store. Going to have a fitness center, why not a store right across from it?

11. Tim Horton's. Why not? Shouldn't there be one on every corner? Yes, I know there is one just outside.

12. A Pharmacy. Doesn't compete with other HBC lines. Could be in basement with a grocery.

13. A bank or credit union offices.

14. University of Winnipeg class or offices. Yes, it has been talked about before. Could still be a good idea.

15. A CBC Broadcast Center. The old CBC offices could be sold to the University of Winnipeg and a full floor or so HBC could be the radio. TV, broadcast center. Enough parking for all employees. Only question is shipping doors for large broadcast vehicles. Could tap into infrastructure money.

16. Provincial offices. Truth be told is that the province leases space all time.

17. City offices: A more difficult idea if city campus plan is still in effect. But they did move police to south Portage.

18. A regional health authority. Seems like they build new buildings every year.

19. A medical or dental clinic. Could be a downtown quick service clinic or walk-in clinic.

20. A Chinese food buffet. I've joked about this in the past but why not?

21. A restaurant and grill sport bar. The Jets and moose are just around the corner. Should be a no brainer.

22. A daycare. How many head offices, government offices and residents nearby? large daycare would be filled immediately.

23. Escape rooms. They are all over town. Why not part of a floor dedicated to entertainment?

24. A cabaret. Music, dancing, night club.

25. Water park. Always like to throw this one in there.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

New Leaf Airlines Announces Discount Flights

New Leaf Airlines has announced their new flight schedules and prices starting on February 12. Winnipeg is the headquarters and main hub for the airlines and travel will be between seven cities. For Winnipeggers the travel will be between Abbotsford, Kelowna and Hamilton. Introductory rates are as low as $99 for Winnipeggers with all fees and taxes included.

The website says: “Your fare gets you the two essentials: a seat and a seatbelt. The rest is up to you.”

Ultra low cost means you pay extra for printing a boarding pass, carry-on luggage or drinks.

The company will fly two 156 seat Boeing 737-400 aircrafy leased from Kelowna's Flair Airlines. As more employees and destinations to places in Canada, United States, Mexico and the Carribbean increase, the goal is to expand to 15 aircraft.

The burst of excitement after the announcement caused the system to crash but it back up and running.

WestJet which started in 1996 with three aircraft and low rates says they will vigourously defend their market.

The market is tough for Canadian airline start-ups.  CanJet failed last year in Halifax. Jetsgo stopped right in the middle of March break stranding passengers in 2005. Canada 3000 failed after September 11 in 2001.

Greyhound Airlines was the last discount passenger start-up in Winnipeg in 1996 but failed a year later in 1997.

New Leaf airlines looks to be located on property at the Richardson International Airport.  They appear to have a plan and they are sticking to it. They also appear to have the people to really make a go of it.

Canada's problems with air travel is that the country has a lot of east-west geography which means higher costs to run the aircraft. It will be a real test to build traffic between some cities. However, if the idea of ultra low cost takes off, the airline could be well positioned for this niche in the market.

It is hard not to peg ultimate success for this airline not for flights within Canada but to holiday destinations such as Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Mexico, Cuba.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Stella's Cafe and Patio Coming to Pembina Highway

Stella's on Pembina by radio station
Stella's Cafe and Patio is coming to 1463 Pembina Highway right next to the TSN 1290 radio offices. The popular chain of Winnipeg eateries takes over a recently constructed and updated building with a fair sized parking lot in the back.

The company website lists January as the opening date but it will likely be spring when they open their latest attraction: a rooftop patio. Since 1999, Stella's has grown in leaps and bounds and now the very busy stretch on a main route south to the university will have a large restaurant with a patio to enjoy the incredible view north to the cityscape.

Stella's has been instrumental in revitalizing areas wherever they move whether it Osborne, Sherbrook or Portage Avenue. They are likely to be a welcome addition to the area.