Behind a wall of blue and white streamers and a decorative garden motif, about 50 retail stores in the new north expansion of Sherway Gardens mall are preparing to welcome a group of early risers waiting on the other side. The 210,000-square-foot addition, which has taken Cadillac Fairview more than three years to plan and build, is now ready to serve locals in the Etobicoke, Ontario area and beyond.
Before the ribbon was cut, drawing people past 30-foot soaring storefronts, beneath skylight-filled ceilings, Wayne Barwise, executive vice-president of development for Cadillac Fairview, stood at the podium to describe the company’s three objectives for the $550-million redevelopment.
Attracting the best in-class retailers in the quality merchandise mix had always been a key goal, as well as offering an enhanced environment so retailers could present their brands in ‘the best possible light.’
With Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom department stores set to open in spring 2016 and 2017, many of the mall’s new retailers were attracted to these anchor tenants, as well as the location just west of downtown Toronto at the junction of highway 427 and QEW.
“What’s happening is you get some premium luxury worldwide brands taking interest in the Canadian market and recognizing that with 35 million Canadians there’s a market to be had here,” Jason Anderson, senior vice-president of marketing at Cadillac Fairview, said in an earlier interview.
Another key objective was to create an advanced shopping experience for customers who want to buy brands like Kate Spade New York, Free People and Samsung, retailers that have yet to open in the mall. Stores that are now open include a 24,000-square-foot flagship Harry Rosen, a new relocated Sporting Life, Tiffany’s, Coach, Tory Burch and Ted Baker London, to name a few.
“Retail is becoming very global and shoppers today are very astute,” Barwise said later in an interview. “They go online, they’re on their mobiles, they’re aware of products from around the world and what we are trying to offer is a good, broad range from some value items to high-end luxury items and everything in between.”
Just past a massive H&M store, next to Toronto’s first Pinkberry location, an escalator ascends to the new Gourmet Fair food court offering an array of food choices. Soon, The Keg Steakhouse and Joeys will open doors, not only to fill hungry stomachs, but to respond to the changing retail landscape.
“Retail is evolving; it’s changing quickly. People have a choice of buying something online or they can come to a shopping centre,” added Barwise. “Just like you have to have a lineup of good retailers, you want to enhance people’s visit; you want them to experience restaurants. Coming to Sherway Gardens will be more than just shopping; there will be some entertainment and opportunity to enjoy good food.”
Notable restaurants are becoming a way to specifically bring people to malls, a new trend that looks past the idea of food as a way to keep customers inside mall walls.
Andy Traynor, general manager for the mall, said there will be also be a patio, offering nightlife and scenic views along the Queensway Gardens, an incentive for downtown commuters who travel home to the suburbs and may wish to shop as well. The concept of ease also plays a strong role in the experience of the food.
“Gourmet Fair was the first food court in North America, and is now in its third generation,” noted Traynor, during the event. “The problem was it didn’t have capacity and you could only squeeze so many seats in. Now we’ve doubled the seats. Now there’s the right capacity.”
Another opportunity to address an area of concern was with parking.
“It’s always been easy on all four corners to get in and out of the mall. But once you get in, it’s always been a challenge to find a parking spot,” Traynor said about the former 77-acre site that was spread on one level. “We built three multi-level decks adjacent to all our major entrances, introduced a parking navigation system, which is the red-light/green-light sensors above every parking spot, similar to what the airport, GO stations and Metrolinx has.”
As customers drive down the parking aisles, they will see a green light. This will be tied to directional signage at the entrances, signaling how many spots are available in different areas.
“It’s all about the shopping experience,” Traynor said. “Getting customers in and out easier, which is a major advantage over our competition.”
Other upcoming innovations will include WiFi, text concierge technology and Path Intelligence, which is the latest location analytics technology that finds beacons on consumers’ phones and, without identifying them individually, tells property managers what door customers came through, where they shopped and how long they stayed.
What also emerged during the expansion is the company’s new “CF” national brand, positioned to unify Cadillac Fairview’s 20 properties across the country and leverage the equity of individual properties. Anderson says the connection between the new corporate brand, new-to-market-retailers and this new expansion will help consumers depend on all Cadillac Fairview properties as a great shopping experience.
“Great brands from around the world are competing with each other and shopping centre operators are competing for attention from brands, but also from shoppers,” Anderson said. “The shopping experience will help navigate this competition.”
Rebecca Melnyk is online editor of Building Strategies & Sustainability and Canadian Property Management @rebeccachirp