January 9, 2018 7:57 pm
Updated: January 9, 2018 8:09 pm

Sainte-Catherine Street vacancies mirror the rise of online shopping

WATCH: Officials insist that the four years of construction on Sainte-Catherine Street will ultimately bring more customers to downtown Montreal. Yet, with so many vacant store fronts, Global's Tim Sargeant reports, some aren't so sure.


Montreal’s shopping destination is not what it used to be. Sixty retail vacancies now line Sainte-Catherine Street between de Bleury and Atwater Street.

Many of the stores have become victims of online shopping.

Many people prefer the convenience of shopping with their fingertips instead of making in-store purchases.

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“It’s clearly a threat. That’s why you have to give the consumer a reason to go. You have to give them an experience, you have to appeal to their sensuality, to sense of touch, sense of smell, have a restaurant, have a café, have a fashion show. Give people a reason to come to the show,” Daniel Baer, a retail analyst at EY told Global News.

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The famed street used to be lined with large traditional department stores and movie cinemas.

However, many have since left, and multinational retailers taking up less space have moved into their place.

But even these stores are under threat unless they can provide an in-store experience to attract shoppers.

“Retailers have to adapt and a lot have not and that’s why you do see some of the vacancies today,” Baer said.

The street is also undergoing a massive makeover.

The city is having most of the street torn up and rebuilt. It’s a four-year project that could be scaring potential retailers from signing a long-term lease until all the construction is complete.

“The renovation of Sainte-Catherine Street will be an [economic] shot in the arm,” Léopold Turgeon, CEO of the Quebec Retail Council, told Global News.

Analysts are banking on the long-term future of Sainte-Catherine Street, providing stores continue to re-invent themselves and foot traffic translates into shoppers opening their wallets.

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