What can bring flagging retail to life?

Retail consultant David Ian Gray of DIG360 usually focuses on the downtown Vancouver area, but says he is increasingly suggesting entrepreneurs look east.

“I’ve had clients, especially startups, and they’re looking at Coal Harbour, etc., and I’ve actually said you should look at New West,” Gray says. “Or at least the TriCities.”

Downtown Vancouver is overserved in terms of retail, he says, and population growth is shifting the whole epicentre of Metro Vancouver towards Surrey.

“If you’re thinking longer term, that’s something to think about,” he says.

When asked about reviving flagging retail strips, he says an engaged, proactive group of owners in one small area can have a signficant impact.

He cites the creation of the Granville Street entertainment district as an example. This resulted from a idea brought forward by the owners of the Roxy nightclub, Gray says, not City Hall. In the case of South Granville’s furniture and decor district, around Broadway, this cluster of like-minded businesses resulted from some hands-on decisions by owners to be patient and seek tenants that fit their mix.

It’s can be a tough pill as owners forego rents for a little while. But the payoff can be significant, Gray says, in terms of the value of their retail properties, because “marginal retail attracts other marginal retail.”

Gray says City Hall can also help by relaxing parking rules and keeping business taxes low. And then there’s always the wild card that can really make things happen.

“It’s usually someone within the commuinty has the idea for a unique concept that wants to do it in their backyard,” says Gray. “It’s hard to predict. It really is.”



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