Empty big box storefronts a symptom of changing consumer behaviour, experts say


WATCH: Empty big box storefronts are a symptom of changing consumer behaviour, experts say.

Many Vancouver Islanders can remember the day Eaton’s closed its doors for good.

Last year, Sears went out of business.

Soon, Home Outfitters will also shut down.

“People shop based on three things: value, experience and convenience, and you need to hit one of those,” said Graham Smith, senior vice-president at Colliers International.

“And the issue with the big box that we’ve seen happen is they’re starting to miss out on what’s important to consumers.”

Experts say the retail landscape is changing, driven by changing consumer tastes and growing e-commerce.

Many successful companies are now using their retail spaces as showrooms.

“Think about Apple stores. Apple stores are really cool environments. You get to play around with technology, to sample different things,” said Dr. Saul Klein, dean of UVic’s Gustavson School of Business.

“Yes, you can buy stuff there, but I suspect that the majority of sales that are being driven by people coming into the stores are not happening in the store. They’re happening in other venues.”

Smith says the buildings where big-box retailers once resided are still in demand.

“Factors that made a retail building successful previously are still the same things,” he said.

“You need the visibility, you need the parking, you need the access. Those types of things, so long as they’re in even our older product, still make it desirable for tenants today.”

Experts say they could eventually be subdivided into small retail spaces or converted into offices.

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