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Empty stores a worry for Vernon mall merchants

A gaping 103,000-square-foot hole is all that's left of Target in the Village Green Centre.
May 01, 2015 - 7:32 PM

VERNON - If you’ve been to the Village Green Centre lately, you might have noticed less variety in the 40-year-old mall.

Currently, seven stores in the shopping centre are vacant and merchants are feeling the void.

The Target closure left a large, 103,000-square-foot hole in the mall, but there are other gaps too. Ricki’s has packed up and gone, as well as five other stores throughout the centre. 

Employees from six different stores in the mall expressed concerns about the vacancies and reduction in foot traffic, but most declined interviews due to corporate policy.

One mall worker who agreed to an anonymous interview said this is the highest number of vacancies the centre has seen in years. It’s a difficult time, she said, where many shoppers are choosing to buy online or shop in bigger cities.

“It doesn’t look good in this mall with all these vacancies,” she said. “A year or so ago it was full and looking better.”

It comes in waves, she said, and there have been periods of high vacancy before. But customer shopping habits have her concerned for the future of malls in general. Many people, for instance, choose to shop at the same stores the Village Green Centre has but in Orchard Park Plaza in Kelowna, because there’s more variety once they get there, she said. Many shoppers also come in just to check out a product, intending to buy it later online.

"Customers used to come in and we were educating them on the products, now they've already done the research themselves," she said. “There’s not that much loyalty anymore."

She’s also noticed fewer tourists shopping in the mall.

“It seems to me we used to have more tourists coming through in the summer,” she said. “They would stockpile (and) say this is cheaper than at home.”

The vacancies and reduced foot traffic are things mall management is certainly aware of, she said, and doing their best with. A big game changer for the mall would be a new tenant in the Target space, and that’s something local government is working with the Village Green Centre on.

“I don’t think they’re saying ‘Oh, well.' They're trying," she said, adding management has tried to drive up interest with special promotions and pop-up displays in the mall.

“They’re not doing nothing, but it has to be everybody working together if we want to keep the mall. People need to be more loyal.”

Infonews.ca made repeated attempts to contact mall management for comment, but calls and emails were not answered.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infonews.ca or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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