“We are bringing in exciting tenants so the people of the City of Wetaskiwin will no longer feel they have to drive out of the City to purchase what they want.” This was the firm statement made by Matt Stokes representing Endurance Equities Corporation, owners and operators of the Wetaskiwin Mall.
At one time, the Wetaskiwin Mall was the exciting hub of retail in Wetaskiwin. Wal-Mart was in the centre, Canadian Tire to the South and Safeway were all in the same location. Spaced in-between the anchor stores was a wide variety of retail shops. In fact the variety was enough to satisfy the needs of most shoppers. But, one-by-one the large anchor stores saw the need for more retail space and moved to new locations. The smaller retail outlets began to feel the effects of the decline of ‘walk on’ traffic to the point where they too, were leaving. The once bustling retail centre became pretty much deserted and was on its deathbed. “It’s status and appearance had been lowered,” suggests Stokes. “Because previous landlords did not commit the time, energy and budget required to evolve the mall into the modern and attractive shopping centre the people of Wetaskiwin began to go elsewhere.”
Shocking results – eight out of every 10 Wetaskiwin residents shop outside City
At the June 15th, 2012 meeting of City Council, the Mustel Group presented the results of market research conducted to understand the extent and type of retail leakage in the trading area. The shocking results showed more than eight out of every 10 Wetaskiwin trade area residents shopped outside their area on a monthly basis. The destinations they choose for shopping are Edmonton 52%, Red Deer 35%, Leduc 29%, and Camrose 16%. Wetaskiwin is only chosen as the chosen destination by 28% of the shoppers. Over half of the residents make weekly or more frequent shopping trips to other communities. People are going elsewhere and taking their wallets with them.
Private industry helps solve the City’s problem
The City of Wetaskiwin had quantifiable evidence that it had a serious problem. Seeking solutions, the City put money into some strategies like Buy Wetaskiwin, an on-line directory of businesses, (great idea, but only 40 per cent of the City’s businesses have claimed their page in the online directory. Buy Wetaskiwin is still available online at www.wetaskiwin.ca) some glossy brochures and a Business Visitation program that was only 40 % completed. Even the promise of a new Aquatic Centre and Main Street Revitalization project produced few results.
But, that is when private industry stepped in and began to help solve the retail leakage problem; revival of the neglected and almost empty Wetaskiwin Mall. The Mall had been purchased by Retrocom Mid-Market REIT's in March 2004 but it continued to decline under the Eastern Canadian owners. In early 2012, Endurance Equities Corporation operating out of Edmonton, saw the retail opportunity, purchased the property and began the revival process. “We are a property development company that specializes in developing retail properties small and medium sizes towns and cities”, explains Stokes. With the new Wetaskiwin Mall, people will no longer have to travel for what they want. They will be able to find it here, at home in the Wetaskiwin Mall. We are fully committed to making the mall redevelopment a success.”
The Mall is undergoing a complete refreshing of its exterior. Soon traffic along Highway 2A will see a new pylon sign announcing events and Mall specials. “We feel a very important part of redeveloping a shopping centre is refreshing the look. This is what tells the consumers – things are happening, things are changing, exciting things are happening at Wetaskiwin Mall. This is all geared towards creating more traffic at the shopping centre to increase the success of our tenants.”
Aggressive retail campaign sees new businesses arriving
The Mall sports a rapidly increasing number of retail outlets; The Source, Sportchek, Dollarama, LW (Part of the Big Lots Group), Scotiabank, Easyhome Furniture, Visionmasters, Elite Stereo, Chippers Salon, Sandoor Jewellers, Moe’s Stylists, How Sweet It is, Raya’s Fashions and Rogers Wireless.
During the past year more and more new tenants have begun to converge on the Mall; Snap Fitness, Peace Hills Bingo, Thanes Music Store, Warehouse One (opening August 15, 2013), Golden Ginger Fashions (opening Fall 2013), Raya (opening September 2013), Thane's Music Stop – (opening August 2013) and M & L Nails (opening September 2013)
Other new categories of tenants to watch for during the next year are: a national men’s and women’s fashion retailer; youth and urban fashion; lottery kiosk; medical clinic; pharmacy (this will be a large full service presentation as found in other cities similar to Wetaskiwin) and a new food court with many new and interesting dining choices.
“The mall is evolving because we are committed to retail property development,” claims Stokes. “We are committed to this project. The Wetaskiwin Mall sits on the largest and best shopping centre land in the City of Wetaskiwin. It has fantastic exposure on Highway 2A, and a strong trading area from which to draw consumers. The Mall will become the retail centre for the City of Wetaskiwin and the large trading area surrounding the City. Malls need to be modern, clean and attractive, and have a very strong tenant base.”
Endurance Equities Corporation has also replaced over 70,000 sq. ft. of roof, installed new electrical metering, some new parking lot lights and a number of new heating and air-conditioning units. They are also planning to install Wi-Fi throughout the entire property to encourage consumers to spend time in the mall.
Mall strives to be part of the community
“We recently did a display campaign where we donated space in the mall to local artists, retailers and not-for-profit operations. This created more traffic in the mall, created goodwill with some of the local businesses in Wetaskiwin, and brightened up some of the vacant bays until they are occupied by long term tenants. The project was a big success and we filled all of the bays within a month. We are sponsoring the Wetaskiwin Chamber of Commerce Golf Tournament.” Other upcoming community events proposed by the Mall will include a Halloween Haunted House, the location of the Fall Fashion Show, a voting station in the upcoming municipal election and during the holiday season, a Christmas photo setting including Santa Claus.
“We have also acquired the former Canadian Tire property adjacent to the mall and removed the fence surrounding that property. This property is now part of our leasing campaign and we have some very strong offers from some exciting major tenants for this space.”
For more information contact Matt Stokes, Endurance Equities Corp. (780) 667-3300