I didn’t want Canada to feel left out, since they seem to actually have more malls than the United States (per capita anyway). Hey, it’s colder there. Anyway, Garden City Shopping Centre is an enclosed mall with 80 stores located on the northwest side of Winnipeg, Manitoba. It is approximately 30 years old, and anchored by major stores Sears, Canadian Tire, Winners, Petcetera, and Shoppers Drug Mart. It’s perfectly successful, and your average suburban mall in every way with one notable difference. It’s in Canada. Therefore, it’s automatically fascinating to a Yankee (like me) with an interest in chains, malls, and retail in general.
In order to begin comprehending how malls seem to work in Canada (and they do work differently), I’ll provide a very short primer here. While the enclosed mall is essentially the exact same thing that we have in the States (but with different stores, of course), Canadians seem to construct them more often. That is to say, their mall-per-capita ratio is higher than ours. What in the States would be a strip mall anchored by grocery, discount, or other, is often in Canada a fully enclosed mall. Sure, they have plenty of strip malls and even the latent big-box anchored behemoths (they often call them Power Centres), but they certainly have a lot of enclosed malls aimed at serving only a neighborhood contingent. Here in the States, most of our enclosed malls (with exceptions, of course) cater to at very least a regional, if not super-regional consumer base. In the States, it would be more odd to find an enclosed mall anchored by a grocery store or discount store and nothing else, whereas in Canada, it’s quite commonplace. That said, there seem to be a lot more enclosed malls in Canada per city or metro area because there actually are.
Winnipeg is no exception to this rule of thumb. There are no less than 10 enclosed malls of significant size within Winnipeg, which has a metro population of approximately 700,000. Compare that to similarly sized (or larger) metropolitan areas in the United States and you will mostly come up short. That’s just one of the reasons Canada is fascinating to me. I also enjoy it because it’s like an alternate reality or paradigm shift to the United States. Essentially things are done the same and the same types of things are available, with quirky differences to make it interesting. In retail this is exemplified in the fact that their chains are similar to ours, but not the same. They have chains of their own mall stores that are in every mall there, just like we do. But they’re different. It’s great.
I took these pictures in July 2001. If someone’s acutally reading this from Winnipeg, please comment away. I’ve never met any Canadians interested in malls and retailing in general, and it would be a great perspective from the other point of view.