Robson: case study on the evolution of retail streets
Vancouver's Robson Street is one of Canada's most visible high streets (along with Bloor in Toronto and Rue Ste. Catherine in Montreal). In the late '90's it was really the only notable shopping street in town; now it vies with other emerging shopping districts. Yet in the public eye and for a number of global retailers it remains the place to be in Vancouver.
For this reason, vacancies and shifting rents attract much attention. As rents rise, due mainly to the branding opportunities and adjacencies of this street, smaller retailers operating close to breakeven will leave. As will those chains who are taking a renewed interest in their bottom lines. Other, cheaper districts will attract. As those rents rise, hipster boutiques move on to create the next up-and-coming street.
Back to Robson, landlords and prospective tenants play a waiting game based on speculation around a couple of prime locations. This has left some vacancies and some recent lowered lease signings (mid block). But this is not a deathnell for Robson, it is a normal readjustment. Apple arriving or a big name in the HMV site will start another wave of increases.
This ebb and flow is typical of street retailing anywhere.
How a growth-oriented independent levers Robson to accelerate its brand: