Smaller Kelowna retailers not worried about big stores shuffling off

Sandwiched between an empty Future Shop and Target—what's next?

The abrupt shutdown of Future Shop along with the ongoing closure of Target has left the smaller businesses in Kelowna’s Orchard Plaza shopping centre in an unusual position.

They’re now sandwiched between the remains of the country’s two most recent and arguably significant retail failures, and it’s unclear what, if anything, will fill the void.

“We’re still digesting the news, too. We don’t have any names (of future tenants) we can put out there right now, but there are companies that are interested,” said Randy Lowe, chief operating officer of McIntosh properties limited, the management group for Orchard Plaza Shopping Centre, which is now left with the task with filling the empty spaces.

The management group, along with Future Shop employees, and the rest of Canada learned Saturday of the corporation’s intention to immediately shut down 66 store countrywide, while converting 65 others to Best Buy stores.

Already working to resolve the problem created by Target vacating the space, they now have double the space to market.

It’s not a challenge Lowe sees as insurmountable.

“It’s still really early for us, but we are going to market the building as it is,” he said. “There are  other businesses still thriving and looking to move into Kelowna. And there are companies that need that kind of space.”

If not, they can change the space, by dividing it up and putting in smaller businesses.

That decision, however, is a ways off.

Unlike two strip malls in West Kelowna that are also running with a high vacancy rate, Orchard Plaza remains successful, he said.

“We are well located  next door to the largest Interior mall between Kamloops and Calgary,” he said.

They’ve also done their part to find tenants that will have staying power—aside from the two aforementioned exceptions.

“We have tried to get tenants that will play off of one another,” Lowe said. “There’s Nature’s Fare and the Running Room, and other lifestyle tenants, along with our professional building that has health and wellness tenants. So hopefully people who come here will have several stops.”

It’s been successful recipe for Les Gordichuk, owner of Rocky Mountain Fitness.

“The synergy and complementariness we find comes from Natures Fare, Running Room and Source for Sports,” said Gordichuk. “Typically a customer that goes to Future Shop is on a mission, they’re a destination shop. They’re not so much, my customer.”

He said that he knows they’re good tenants, but their departure isn’t a big loss to his business.

“If Chevy’s left I’d been concerned,” Gordichuk said. “They have every mother, dad, child, soccer player, football player, basketball player, skate sharpening customer in there on a daily basis— that’s my customer.”

There is also a silver lining.

“It shows that a good independent is a good independent,” he said. “It’s not always a big national anchor that’s needed, because …. well, who would have thought?”

Future Shop’s shut down is only the latest in a series of closures in Canada that have included U.S. retail giant Target and smaller players like Sony Canada, Boutique Jacob Inc. and Mexx.

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