Another major department store in downtown Edmonton is about to close. On Thursday, Hudson’s Bay announced it would be closing its Edmonton City Centre location.
In a news release, the store says the decision comes as the company works to accelerate “its strategy to elevate the brand and improve performance.”
The store will reopen, after being closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, on May 19, along with all Alberta Hudson’s Bay stores, and a gradual closing will follow after that.
According to the news release, the store will be closed in the fall and employees will be given transfer opportunities.
The other four Edmonton locations will continue to operate.
A spokesperson for the company said it didn’t have anything further to add when contacted for further information by 630 CHED.
Earlier this year, Holt Renfrew also closed its downtown Edmonton location after 69 years of operation.
Ian O’Donnell, the executive director of the Downtown Business Association in Edmonton, told Global News he did not want to speak directly about what is happening with The Bay.
“We’re waiting to learn more and we’re waiting to confirm a few details,” he said of the department store’s plans.
Speaking broadly, however, O’Donnell said when a high-profile tenant leaves the downtown core, it can provide an opportunity for rejuvenation as opposed to decline.
“As somebody leaves, someone will certainly look at filling that gap,” he said of major retail departures like Holt Renfrew.
O’Donnell added that the City Centre mall’s new owners have a “huge opportunity” to reimagine the mall as a modern site that can better respond to the changing needs of Edmonton’s downtown core.
“I think some people might be surprised as to what may be coming down the pipe in terms of some new tenants,” he said. “There’s enough residents and that’s only growing.
“With changes comes occasional short-term pain but long-term opportunity.”
O’Donnell said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is also creating a lot of uncertainty but noted that some businesses are able to adapt quickly in trying circumstances.
“We understand that what we left in February and early March is not going to be what we are going forward. That said, many people I’ve been chatting with are looking at a reset and that’s going to be more innovative.”
O’Donnell pointed to businesses’ growing access to large volumes of data that can help them better pinpoint where to locate and how to target their advertising.
Ward 6 City Councillor Scott McKeen said he was really disappointed to hear The Bay was leaving the downtown core, but more on a symbolic level than anything else.
“I can vaguely remember as a kid going downtown to The Bay and their toy department and their window displays at Christmas were amazing,” he said Friday.
“It’s part of the tradition and it’s a loss to not have The Bay downtown. I’m sad about that but unfortunately, or practically speaking, things change. And this is a change that may herald something new and dramatic and interesting and vibrant in our downtown.”
McKeen believes the decision to close the store has more to do with the company and retail market than the state of the city’s downtown.
“The Bay has been a bit of a disappointment for years,” he said, adding he feels the company focused more on its location at Southgate Centre.
McKeen also believes the way people are shopping is changing; they want more of an experience than just an indoor mall.
“Retail is obviously changing and online shopping is having a titanic impact on retailers and what we know, what we hear, is that people want experiential shopping experiences. If they’re going to go somewhere and shop, it’s got to be more than just racks of cloths, racks of products. So that would be the challenge for the modern retailer, to create experiences for people that are more than just going to Amazon or some other online retailer,” he said.
“I think it’s always been a bit awkward to have malls in the downtown. People, when they go downtown, like when they go to Whyte Avenue, are looking for more of a sidewalk shopping, browsing, window shopping experience.”
The councillor said he’s spoken to the new owners of the mall and he believes they understand that.
“As it transitions into other things, I wouldn’t be surprised to see residential into that mall as it renovates, I wouldn’t be surprised to see institutional go into that mall as it renovates and then maybe retail more on that sidewalk level,” he said.
“Because blame those damn millennials again — although I’m fully with them — we like a sidewalk shopping experience.”
McKeen stressed he doesn’t believe this decision had anything to do with Edmonton’s downtown.
“I’m disappointed but it’s not on our downtown. Our downtown continues to grow and will thrive COVID or not. There are some wonderful investments coming,” he said.
“Downtown is on its way up, it’s not on its way down.”
With files from Caley Ramsay, Global News.