It’s the end of an era for a former retail giant in Kelowna.
Nearly 50 years after it was built, the former Sears location at Orchard Park Mall is being demolished.
The demolition comes after the department store chain went bankrupt.
For some, the tear-down is also the end of a personal chapter.
“As I drove up here I kind of had goosebumps,” said Kelly Wolfe, as she walked into the mall.
“I’m kind of sad because my dad worked at Simpson Sears for 35 years. We moved here in 1971 when the store opened and he worked there ’til he retired, so yeah, it is kind of sad.”
According to UBC Okanagan economics instructor Dr. Julien Picault, the tear-down is a sign of the challenging times for the department store sector and a trend towards smaller more specialized shops.
Picault points out that while the former Sears location is being demolished, several other new retail spaces have been built in Kelowna in recently.
So Picault doesn’t expect to see fewer retail stores in the region overall, but does expect the retail landscape to change.
“Department stores do not do well, but some other stores do,” Picault said.
“People shop differently [now]; they go to more specialized store[s]. The mall is just adapting.”
Still, he says the demolition isn’t a sign that online shopping is set to completely replace real-world stores.
“I don’t think we will see the end of retail in Kelowna in the next five years,” Picault said.
“People like to shop and they still like to go choose products and there are things they are not willing to actually order online on a regular basis.”
The question now for malls is whether they’ll still be able to attract customers with fewer large-scale anchor tenants.
Orchard Park is clearly betting that by diversifying its offerings it will still be able to draw a crowd.
The 80,000-square-foot former Sears location is being torn down to make way for a Mark’s store roughly a third of its size.
That store is expected to be open by the end of the year and Orchard Park says plans are in the works to add additional new retail space next year.
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