212 new retail businesses have opened in downtown Vancouver since 2012: report

Nov 21 2019, 9:22 am

Unlike a shopping mall with a single property owner, it can be difficult to track how the businesses within an entire city district changes over time.

But a new report released today by the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA) provides insight into the growth of retail and service businesses in downtown Vancouver since 2012, highlighting that there has been a net gain of 212 brick-and-mortar businesses.

Moreover, the annual retail growth rate for the past six years is 4.4%, and more than four in 10 businesses are able to stand the test of time of operating for a decade or more.

“We wanted to better understand brick and mortar retail within our catchment. Thanks to the City of Vancouver’s open-source business license data, we can now start to develop a holistic retail narrative — celebrating longstanding businesses, identifying trends, and setting a benchmark that allows us to better advocate on our member’s behalf,” said Charles Gauthier, president and CEO of the DVBIA, in a statement.

“By analyzing this data, we can identify trends, better understand the retail mix, and make policy and business recruitment recommendations to ensure our downtown core remains a vibrant destination to eat, shop and play.”

downtown vancouver businesses

Businesses in downtown Vancouver. (Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association)

Leading retail and service sectors

Businesses providing beauty services are actually the largest sector, with a net gain of 77 businesses between 2012 and 2018. Salons, numbering 94 businesses, are at the top of this sector, including the doubling of the number of men’s barbershops. But eyebrow and lashes businesses saw the most growth.

The second-largest sector is clothing and shoes, which experienced a net gain of 26 businesses. The sub-sectors that saw high growth were luxury clothing (+10.3%) and vintage and consignment clothing (+3.2%).

Interior of Holt Renfrew’s Vancouver flagship store expansion, occupying the former space of Sport Chek at CF Pacific Centre. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

This is followed by jewellery, the third largest sector in downtown, with a net gain of 37 businesses, with the majority located within Alberni Street’s luxury strip and spilling out to West Georgia Street. Some recent notable openings include the Rolex Boutique at 1119 Alberni Street, which is the largest standalone Rolex store in North America, as well as Hublot, Graff, and Patek Philippe at 1018 Alberni Street.

“Overall growth is led by luxury retail along the Alberni corridor. Similar to luxury clothing/shoes, Hong Kong and Chinese consumers contribute to the sector’s success and there is a trend towards opening stand-alone stores,” reads the report.

Fitness centres, not including hotel and office gyms, are the sixth largest sector behind travel agencies. There was a net gain of 11 businesses in this sector, most notably the opening of Equinox at 1131 West Georgia Street.

Granville Strip’s revitalization underway

The Granville Strip and adjacent areas have seen some of the most changes since 2012, when Sears still existed — now converted into a CF Pacific Centre mall expansion, Nordstrom, a major Microsoft office, and Sony Pictures Imageworks’ international headquarters.

Old Navy opened a 12,000-sq-ft store within a new purpose-built retail and office building opposite of Nordstrom at the southwest corner of the intersection of Robson and Granville streets.

Downtown’s Sport Chek store, previously located in the northernmost block of CF Pacific Centre, relocated to Chapter’s former space at the southeast corner of Robson and Howe streets. A 40,000-sq-ft expansion of Holt Renfrew filled in Sport Chek’s former mall unit.

h&m pacific centre granville street

The completed new exterior of H&M’s Vancouver flagship store at CF Pacific Centre mall on Granville Street in downtown Vancouver, November 2019. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

H&M is currently in the process of completing its renovation and expansion of its flagship Vancouver store at the mall. When complete, it will grow the store’s floor area from 28,000 sq. ft. to 38,000 sq. ft.

There is a cluster of retailers that appeal to younger consumers on Granville Street south of Robson Street, such as Zumiez, Vans, Adidas Heritage Store, and 8th & Main.

“Globally, large retailers such as Zumiez, Vans, and Old Navy are said to be performing exceptionally well due to their ability to capitalize on trends such as ‘athleisure’ and retro styles,” reads the report.

This area on Granville Street south of Robson Street sees lower lease rates compared to some of the premium areas of downtown, and vacant storefronts remain an issue, topped off by the recent closures of Payless Shoes and Miniso.

855 Granville Street The Rec Room

August 2019 design of 855 Granville Street, Vancouver for Cineplex’s The Rec Room Granville. (Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership / Cineplex)

But there is momentum; the large void on the 800 block of Granville Street — the space of the Empire Granville 7 theatres, closed since 2012 — is about to be redeveloped into a 45,000-sq-ft Cineplex Rec Room entertainment centre, set to open in 2021. Further down the strip, Tom Lee’s relocation to 728 Granville Street allowed the conversion of its former location at 929 Granville Street into a 70,000-sq-ft Spaces coworking location, plus new ground-level retail and restaurant units that help activate the street.

Alberni luxury strip solidifies

The intensification of luxury retailers along the Alberni Street corridor between Burrard Street and Thurlow Street has solidified the area’s designation as an area for luxury retailers.

The reconstruction of the Carlyle building’s retail podium in 2013 created space for five luxury stores, and the momentum carried on with the new retail space at the 745 Thurlow Street office tower in 2016 and the new infill retail building on the mid-block plaza in 2017.

Alberni Street Vancouver

Alberni Street looking west from the intersection with Burrard Street. (Google Maps)

The lease rates along the Alberni strip are amongst the highest in downtown, hovering at $150 to $250 per sq. ft. as of late last year — compared to $30 to $120 per sq. ft. on the Granville Strip. But far lower than $1,500+ per sq. ft. on the luxury retail strips in New York, London, and Paris.

“Relatively low lease rates, a comparatively low Canadian dollar, proximity to Asia-Pacific and an increase in the number of high-net worth individuals living in Vancouver contribute to the success of downtown’s luxury retail,” reads the report.

Vacancies are also low to the extent that there is a shortage of available suitable space for luxury retailers to be on Alberni Street. For instance, earlier this year, Hermes’ new and expanded Vancouver flagship store relocated to a two-storey Alberni-adjacent space at the southwest corner of Burrard Street and West Georgia Street.

Hermes Vancouver Store

Hermes Vancouver flagship store at 717 Burrard Street. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

The DVBIA’s retail report only examines the 90-block area of the city centre that is within its jurisdiction. This does not include the Robson Strip west of Burrard Street, Gastown, and the West End, which are under the jurisdiction of other business improvement associations.

A second part of the report detailing food and drink establishments and other retail will be released in early 2020.