In a wide ranging end of the year interview with the Promoter on December 14, City of Kawartha Lakes Mayor, Andy Letham, addressed the question that is still on many consumers’ minds: the identity of the anchor tenant for the new retail space proposed fronting Highway 35 at Colborne Street in Lindsay.
While Letham made it very clear that the City has virtually no influence over who might set up shop, he is hopeful Walmart is still coming.
Few businesses are facing more market volatility right now than brick and mortar retailers. With the reality of more and more Canadians shopping online the death of the department store in North America has been widely debated. In the last decade the Canadian retail scene has seen the untimely death of retail giants such as Sears Canada, Eatons, Zellers, Target and K-Mart. The Hudson’s Bay Company has survived by retreating into a tiny urban niche as a high end retailer only.
The American market has been no better with Sears Roebuck, J.C. Penney, Macys and K Mart/Kresge’s groaning under mountains of unsustainable debt and trying to reorganize before they too close their door forever.
Walmart once seemed immune to these market forces, but even the Arkansas based giant has had to close hundreds of stores over the last three years.
Some local retail experts have even questioned the viability of a Walmart in Lindsay, with the area being currently served by Walmart outlets in Peterborough and Port Perry.
Mayor Letham shared with the Promoter that Walmart hopes to open five new stores in Canada in the near future. Lindsay is on the top of that list. Walmart has already done a site visit, and likes the local market very much.
If Walmart does come, the 90,000 square foot store will be relatively modest as Walmart stores go. Letham expects there will be a heavy emphasis on sales of foods items, as many of the newly proposed Walmarts are evenly split between department store and grocery store style offerings.
Letham said the developer of the Colborne Street property is well versed in dealing with big box retailer, and has an excellent working relationship with many retail firms including Walmart.
An informal survey by the Promoter of downtown businesses in Lindsay regarding the potential arrival of Walmart provided some surprising data. Rather than fear the arrival of Walmart, most said that if a Walmart prevents people from leaving the area to do their shopping, their speciality stores will do nothing but benefit from shoppers kept in town looking to spend.