Retail giant takes over former Sears in Canada’s largest mall, signals confidence in brick-and-mortar stores

Click to play video: 'A look at what the future may hold for major retail stores in Canada'
A look at what the future may hold for major retail stores in Canada
WATCH ABOVE: (From Sept. 7, 2019) When retail giant Sears closed its doors for good in Canada, thousands of people were left without work and a lot of empty space was up for grabs. Chris Chacon takes a look at what the future may hold for the country's other major retail stores – Sep 8, 2019

A little over a year after retail giant Sears closed its doors for good in Canada, another major retailer is expressing confidence in the ongoing viability of brick-and-mortar stores by moving into a space left vacant after the department store’s closure.

The Brick opened its doors to customers at its new West Edmonton Mall location earlier this week.

“Taking over a Sears, there’s lots of doom and gloom around the end of that company unfortunately, but for us, it’s a new beginning,” says Ken Thrasher, senior director of marketing and e-commerce with The Brick. “It’s a new beginning for this space.

“Obviously lots of customers [are] shopping online, but we’re lucky in our area where it’s touch and feel and inspire… so we’ve got a lot of great looks in this store where customers want to come in and see that, and experience it.”

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It was July 14, 2018 when the all of Sears’ doors closed for good, leaving thousands without work and a lot of empty space up for grabs.

READ MORE: Sears Canada shutters its final stores after months-long liquidation

With a wave of online companies such as Amazon and eBay dominating the retail market, many have been left wondering about what the future holds for traditional retail stores.

“Sears, and not just Sears but department stores in general, have had trouble,” says Kyle Murray, professor of marketing with the University of Alberta School of Business. “We’ve seen Holt Renfrew [plan to] leave Edmonton, we’ve [seen] Sears [shut down], we’ve seen Target leave Canada.”

It’s no secret that large retail stores have been struggling, but what’s causing all the challenges?

“It’s a lot of space, it’s a lot of different products not very specialized in any one product and it’s hard to compete with all the specialized retailers.”

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Amid growing competition, there is one competitor that’s taking the lion’s share of business.

“Part of it is certainly online shopping, and even a five per cent increase of market share online could be enough to doom a struggling retailer like Sears,” explains Murray.

And it did. All 140 Sears stores across Canada, including Edmonton’s, closed for good, leaving massive spaces vacant. While some stores have been collecting dust, others have found new tenants.

The Brick, originally created in Edmonton, opened its largest store in the city at West Edmonton Mall on Thursday.

READ MORE: Demolition of Kelowna Sears location a sign of tough times for department stores

A combination of an in-store experience with online services, the Brick is one of many big-box retailers who have adapted to change.

“It’s not going to be the end of physical retail,” Murray says. “It’s still a big part of the market, but it’s going to evolve and probably a little faster than it has in the past.”

The Brick furniture and appliance chain has been around for several decades and says it looks forward to doing business at its new flagship store in Canada’s largest mall.

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