A new retail opportunity, previously out of reach for many, is now available for local businesses in Edmonton.
“It’s not what anyone expected. I think it exceeds anyone’s expectations of what it was going to look like,” said Brad McNamara with Apollo Originals. His businesses is one of 25 local vendors who are set up in RAAS (Retail As A Service) at West Edmonton Mall.
The micro mall concept is described as a chic and modern market that is a new step into retail for some brands.
“I think the biggest thing is we would probably never be able to afford to be in West Edmonton Mall if it wasn’t for an opportunity like this,” McNamara said.
The concept was developed by Mark Ghermezian, the son of one of the developers of West Edmonton Mall. He wanted people to see the addition to the mall as a way of expanding on the shopping experience.
“If you think about what my father and uncles have done with West Edmonton Mall, the entire thing was experience and they nailed it on the head 30 years ago,” Ghermezian said from New York on Tuesday.
The local vendors have been handpicked, based on their products and integrity. They’ve only had to sign three-month leases.
“I think this model does compete well with online. Because these are products that you won’t find anywhere else.”
Emily Salsbury-Deveaux, executive director with the School of Retailing at the University of Alberta, said the RAAS concept takes the curated market to a whole new level.
“We have the Makers Keep (Edmonton) and Curated, which are both inline stores but they both curate local products. But RAAS is definitely a little bit bigger, a more open concept, a more market concept and definitely a larger capital investment,” Salsbury-Deveaux said.
RAAS includes a mix of different merchants such as Pura Botanicals, Cloud Nine Pajamas, Apollo Originals and Moonshine Doughnuts.
“For us as a brand, we didn’t want it to feel like a kiosk. We wanted it to feel authentic and like you are walking into our own mini store,” said Lane Edwards, the founder of Pura Botanicals. “I feel like with markets, sometimes they’re done in a very temporary way, where this is a permanent pop-up experience.”
A second RAAS location is opening in November in the Mall of America in Minneapolis.