A Sidney-based retail consultant predicts “more failures and vacancies” in 2021, but also praises local retailers for having weathered 2020.
“I think Sidney’s retailers have survived pretty well by being innovative but obviously (food and beverage) has taken a major hit,” said Richard Talbot, founder and current president of Supporting Our Sidney, a coalition of downtown merchants and Saanich Peninsula residents.
Retailers who “quickly pivoted” to focus on what Talbot called their primary trade area — North Saanich, Sidney and the northern part of Central Saanich — along with their secondary trade area (the rest of Central Saanich and the Gulf Islands) “survived and will continue to do so.”
Sidney might have also benefited from weaknesses elsewhere, said Talbot, pointing to a recent survey that found 70 per cent of residents in the Capital Regional District felt downtown Victoria was unsafe – a condition related to issues such as crime, homelessness, parking and COVID-19, among others.
However, that snapshot should not blind the public to certain realities, he said.
“In spite of endless optimistic noises from our politicians about our imminent recovery, it will in fact not be until the fall of 2021 that vaccines will reach everyone on Vancouver Island and public confidence returns.”
The theory also applies to local tourism, a major economic driver on the Saanich Peninsula.
“So I am afraid we will see yet more failures and vacancies,” he said.
He also fears that the pending emergence of more commercial space in Sidney as part of the community’s growing share of mixed commercial-residential developments will have a negative effect.
“These large spaces will be a real problem, especially post-(COVID-19), when large restaurants and other users will not be available,” he said.
“The solution is indeed to create smaller spaces for offices, retail or (restaurants). One option to consider is retail condominiums. It provides spaces to franchisees and others who want to own, not rent, and also provides opportunities for small real estate investors.”
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