Monday, January 30, 2017

H&M Officially Announce 2nd Store Opening

H&M has officially announced that they will be opening their second store at Kildonan Place in the summer of 2017. This comes on the heels of their 2014 Polo Park store which has met with great success.

The location appears to be across the hall from a large Urban Planet opening in the summer as well. The new wing occupied the old Zellers and Target space in the mall. Also in that wing appears to a Skechers shoe store and a Hakim Optical. HomeSense and Marshalls are the anchor tenants in that section.

This will be H&M's  84th store in Canada and second for Winnipeg. It will employ 35 people.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Kildonan Place - Marshalls, HomeSense Open April 18

Marshalls and HomeSense have set April 18 as the date they open at Kildonan Place. The old Target has been transformed into a new wing of the expanded mall. The new stores will be accessible from inside the mall. A new mall common area being built at the same time as the rest of the mall's renovations..  HomeSense will lease 21,000 square feet and Marshalls has 24,000 square feet. Original draft of the plans listed H&M coming as well but nothing to report on that sore at the moment.

 MasterMind Toys, West 49 and Cutting Edge Cutlery Co. will also be opening in the months ahead.

Nearly all the major malls in Winnipeg have seen major renovations of the past three years. The closure of Zellers, Target, Kmart and some Safeway and Sobey's locations has caused massive changes in the shopping landscape.

Expect a flurry of other mall announcements in the months ahead.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Polo Park Number 16 Mall in Canada

The Retail Council of Canada released their analysis of the Canadian mall market ending in December and one again CF Polo Park ranks high in their top 30 coming in number 16. It is very likely that Sears is the major drag on why Manitoba's biggest mall does not stand higher. The struggling retailer occupied a lot of space but sales, pedestrian traffic and productivity affects Polo park and St. Vital Centre dramatically.

Polo Park is the only mall to rank in the top 30 between Ontario and Alberta. Nearly all the top malls including Polo Park have experienced recent renovations or expansions. In the case of Polo Park, it was the 22 stores added in the old Zellers location in the past 3 years and the several stores added where Safeway once stood. Harry Rosen also had an expensive makeover.

All the top malls were located in urban centers, tourist areas and near mass transit. Polo Park is in the provinces largest city, one of the biggest tourist draws and has a major bus hub. Winnipeg has few high end retailers despite a higher median income than the Vancouver area. This may speak to the city being less of a tourist attraction than the coast.

Polo Park bought the the recently built former Target store north of the Scotiabank movie theatres. Rumour has swirled that Cineplex Odeon has their eyes set on a space in the parking lot for their Rec Centre entertainment complex. The mall seems to be in no hurry to lease the space and a number of retailers have kicked the tires including Nordstrom, Simons and Canadian Tire. In the case of the first two, they might be on Sears deathwatch as the old retailer continues to wheeze to a possible shutdown. The 300,000 stores will be highly sought after.

In all likelihood, Polo Park will rise in the ranks but until the Sears issue is resolved.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Cirque du Soleil Under the Big Top Winnipeg

It is hard to imagine it now but just as soon as the snow melts the corner of Kenaston and Sterling Lyon will host another big top event. After the enormous success of Odysseo Cavalia horse show in 2015, Cirque decided that Winnipeg was perfect for the Kurios big top performance of their 35th production.

The production under blue and yellow big top tents kitty corner to IKEA will feature Kurios which premiered in Montreal in 2014. The show will run June 2 to June 25 and is a fantastical steampunk tale. Set in the late 19th century, it is the story of an inventor who creates a machine that that re-invents everything in time, space and dimension. The Seeker as the inventor is called interact with amazing characters in a world that only Cirque du Soleil can present in all its glory.

True North, Jets owners, once again bring the big top to the city. It is the first time that Cirque has done a show in Winnipeg not inside the MTS Centre. However, the Kenaston and Sterling Lyon location has proven to be a winner.

The 2017 year will prove to be a busy one with many festivals, concerts, Canada Summer Games and Canada 150 celebrations. The draw of a big top event will just make it even more exciting.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sears and Macy's Closing in North Dakota

This week the collapse of department stores in the United States hit North Dakota hard. It was announced that Macy's in Columbia Mall was closing and it was announced that Sears in West Acres was closing.

Macy's has been at Columbia at Grand Forks since 2006. Prior to that it was sister store Marshal Fields and before that originally in 1978 a Dayton's. The mall also heard the news that long term tenant Zales Jewelry was closing as well. A huge hole of over 100,000 square combined feet and just under 75 employees have lost their jobs. The last time they had so much space is when Target closed and moved across the street and it took many, many years to bring Scheels Sports in to replace it.

Meanwhile in Fargo at West Acres Mall, the Sear store is slated to close as well. The store has been an anchor at the mall since 1972 and employs just over 50 people. This comes on the heels of the K-Mart closure in October at Moorhead, Fargo's counterpart across the state line in Minnesota.

Sears and K-Mart have the same owner in the U.S. and have been struggling both in the U.S. and Canada. Sears in the U.S. sold off the bulk of their interests in Canada just a few years ago. Macy's is part of a large department store group and  has been closing stores for the last years.

Most of the trouble is being placed at the hands of online shopping and particularly Amazon. However, Sears and K-Mart were losing customers for several years even before Amazon took off. Macy's could be a victim more of changing tastes.

For Winnipegers, it will be a bit shocking not seeing stores they have known for decades. For North Dakota, it will be devastating in terms of the jobs and overall success of these malls.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Manitoba: 2016 Our Not So Horrible Year?

It was a depressing year for some people across Canada and the world. A lot of factors probably accounted for it. Elections don't bring out the best in some people. The economy remains mixed. War mars several areas of the world and refugees suffer for it. A number of beloved artists in literature, film and television have passed away. Many people have had personal family, work and other challenges this year that have left not at their best.

A recent poll asked Canadians how they felt about 2016 and the only place that had signs of positive belief was in Manitoba. So what would account for a annus mirabilis versus a annus horibillis? The poll didn't drill down into why Manitoba polled differently. Did Manitoba suddenly have a soaring economy? No. Did Manitoba have the best year ever for weather? No. We did have a good year in arts and sport. It was another solid year of festivals. But did this all contribute to us being more positive about things than others?

No one can really know all the factors of each individual person in the province. For some who lost a loved one, it could have been a truly terrible year. Lost a job, relationship problems, health issues can all have an affect.

In general though, let's speculate on why Manitoba might be feeling a little better about 2016 and positive about 2017.

1. Economic growth. The province has seen growth that is tangible in that people are seeing construction, new businesses open and more people working and seeing paychecks. RBC confirms they expect Manitoba to take lead on GDP growth in Canada.

2. Population growth. October to this past October was highest growth in Canada for population. People can see it in the streets. It's busy and busy attracts people.

3.Cultural Strength. Most festivals continue to show resilience from JazzFest to Country Fest and from Folklorama to Folk Festival. The organizers, programming, volunteers and attendance made the province attractive for things to do almost every weekend. And let's not forget theatre, ballet and dance.

4. Sports. Jets didn't make the play-offs but the draft produced one of those rare talents in Patrik Laine that excites everyone in the NHL. The Bombers did make the CFL play-offs and had a great final half of the season. We'll be still debating that last field goal attempt for years to come. The Goldeyes won the American Association Baseball championship in a very exciting season! Our curlers always make us proud as well. Lastly, the amateur athletes at every level and age and sport find support and interest from an abundance of Manitobans.

5. Politics. A new mayor of Winnipeg and a new premier of Manitoba took over the province and while there are inevitable criticisms, they remain relatively popular. An initial sense of renewal marks the the beginning of the mandate. It probably helped that there was no spring flooding or extreme forest fire season that would have represented major challenges to government. People seem patient within reason to let the leadership figure out a path in 2017. A new PM federally also seems to remain generally popular early into his mandate.

6. Family. Every year families go through life, death and change but anecdotally, it seemed more people were doing it together and coming together. For decades Manitobans have spread themselves across the continent for opportunities and employment but a lot seem to have been attracted back because of family. It helps fuel much of Manitoba's present optimism.

There are sore points to be sure. The Pas and Churchill had a horrible 2016. Glimmers of hope are there but it was a bad year. First Nations life remains the challenge of the province in terms of making concrete improvements. Deficits. The problems of service, spending and taxation never go away. Crime. Still too much of in Manitoba. Substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol plague the province and the county in general. De-criminalizing marijuana is coming but Manitoba still has basic issues with alcohol abuse and with fetal alcohol exposure. It is not difficult to see how some of the bad issues appear to be has linked together as the good issues.

What Manitoba does not appear to be is anxious or overly upset the way other jurisdictions are. That could change but for now 2016 was not bad and 2017 would look to okay so far to denizens of the province.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Amici's and Bombolini Restaurants Closes

At first it was word on the street and then media in print, TV and radio talked about the closing of Amici's and sister restaurant Bambolini after New Year's Eve. To be sure they had a very good run over 30 years and was often remarked as being one of Canada's finest eating establishments by publications who judge these things.

At a combined 170 seats for Amici's and Bombolini and with 30 staff, the restaurants represented fine dining for Winnipeggers for a very long time. Parking was always an issue at its off Broadway location. The restored heritage building that it occupied had no parking of it own and relied on street parking in front of and beside it. In three decades most Winnipeg residents will acknowledge there are more cars and traffic to deal with everywhere we go. It is easy to be discouraged if you are going to the ballet or theatre and you end up parking a great distance in January cold.

Owner Brian Knight acknowledged that a change of location was probably warranted as many as five years ago. However, would have been no guarantee of success. Asahi Japanese restaurant down the street left Broadway for Charleswood and lasted a few years before shuttering. Dubrovnik on Assiniboine shuttered when its land became too valuable. They didn't attempt a move as part of the charm was the heritage location.

There has been a lot discussion about the closing.  Fond memories, worry of an end of an era and speculation on dining and the direction its going have all been hot topics. It's true that it represents an end of an era but that's not the end dining on Broadway dining. It should be noted that right next door to Amici's is Cafe 22 serving Italian dining with lovely windows to the street. While true, it is a different experience it can be said that competition played as much of a role in the closure.

Amici's was open for lunch as well but in 30 years the competition from food trucks on Broadway was legendary. The politicians, lawyers, civil servants and others wander up and down the street for good food experiences. The storefront eateries that have opened have been Starbucks, Tim Horton's, Subway etc. Oh Doughnuts and Fools and Horses have found a niche as well.

In the last five years something else has changed the food landscape. It is the Winnipeg Jets or rather let's say live sports. Many places have changed their dining to a grill or pub style restaurant from casual to fine dining places. In short, the flat screen TV and high definition quality picture and more sports have transformed restaurants.  In some respects, it has killed nightclubs as well because the mingling experience minus the dancing is part of the new dynamic.

In the last 30 years we have seen the evolution of a chain restaurant style that is unique to Canada when compared to the United States. The Keg, Moxies and Earl's have evolved from their more casual counterparts in the U.S. but less white tablecloth than a fine dining restaurants. To be truthful, there are few if any restaurant groups in the U.S. who have carved out this niche. When Amici's started out The Keg was still comparable to more casual fare in the U.S. Since then it is a pricier and more evolved dining room.

Winnipeg has probably never seen a greater time in terms of restaurant diversity than it has now. It is extremely competitive and some locally owned as well as national chains will fall. Just this week Barley Bros at Polo Park Empress announced they are closing and will eventually move downtown. This would seem counter intuitive since their location has parking now and they will move to where parking is not free and harder to find. What it does say is that the market supports one idea over the other and you have to be fleet footed.

Will something move into Amici's old spot. That is very good possibility. The major investment of having a kitchen, washrooms and space laid out has already been made. Everyone should watch the space since the next big thing might be on the way.