The retail industry in this country is heading up. And while sales figures, at least cautiously, support such an assessment, this is more a literal characterization of the physical space that provides the backdrop for the up-and-coming retail environment than a figurative one. So says Fred Waks, COO of RioCan, the largest real estate investment trust in Canada.
At the CIBC Annual Real Estate Conference, held earlier this month in Toronto, Waks was speaking of a new trend that bucks an entrenched resistance in the retail world to operate on multiple floors. It’s long been believed that asking shoppers to trek up and down stairs in pursuit of their purchases is asking too much.
But the concept that necessity is the mother of change finds much application in this development.
The current density conditions that describe most of today’s buzzing metropolitan settings means a retailer keen to break into a popular urban shopping scape has no choice but to build up — there is, after all, simply no more space to build out.
“There’s going to be more vertical retail,” Waks prophesied to his audience at the “new frontier of the retail sector” panel discussion, one of a handful of panel talks held during the 19th annual conference, attended by leading commercial real estate executives. “It used to be unheard of to have retail on the second floor.”
Not so anymore. Waks’ prediction amounts to an opportunistic heads-up for retail elevator manufacturers everywhere.