Walmart could change Uptown’s retail face

Demolition of the southwest end of the Royal City Centre mall has already begun to accommodate a new Walmart store expected to open in the fall of 2015. - Grant Granger/NewsLeader
Demolition of the southwest end of the Royal City Centre mall has already begun to accommodate a new Walmart store expected to open in the fall of 2015.
— image credit: Grant Granger/NewsLeader

The president of the Uptown Business Association is looking forward to the arrival of Walmart.

Bart Slotman says Walmart’s second store in New West is “only good news” for his part of town.

But some independent shops in the area could be in for a rough ride, says a retail consultant.

The giant discount retailer confirmed last week it will open a 90,000-square-foot Supercentre in the Royal City Centre in fall 2015. The store will include all its regular retail lines along with a supermarket and full-service bakery.

Slotman says businesses in New West already compete with nearby Walmarts in Queensborough and at Lougheed Town Centre in Burnaby. Having a Walmart in Uptown will keep shoppers who might otherwise go to those stores closer to home.

“If you want to go to Walmart, you’ll go to Walmart now,” says Slotman. “Now it will be within a few blocks of where you live.”

Slotman says his association will look at ways to take advantage of the traffic Walmart will bring into Uptown.

“People will see the opportunity,” he says. “New retailers will want to locate in the Uptown area.”

But, says David Ian Gray of DIG360, some established stores will likely suffer.

“Any time you hear Walmart is coming, there’s a huge fear factor,” says Gray.

While Walmart may draw new shoppers into an area, independent retailers have to distinguish themselves from the giant discounter to capitalize on foot traffic.

“If it’s easy for shoppers to see them doing something different, they may actually draw traffic,” says Gray.

That could mean carving out a specialty niche, offering superior service, or reinventing their business.

“They have to be prepared to change,” says Gray. “If retailers want things to be the way they were five years ago, they’re just postponing the inevitable.”

Slotman concedes that may be difficult for some Uptown businesses.

“There may be some adjustment that happens,” says Slotman.

“There may be some retailers that are affected to some degree.”

But with more than a year until Walmart arrives, he says there’s still plenty of time for businesses to make a plan that will keep them competitive and healthy.


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