The City of Prince Rupert and the Prince Rupert and Port Edward Economic Development Corporation are hoping to attract some big name businesses, but not necessarily big box stores.
Earlier this month Economic Development officer Derek Baker sent out invitations to 40 major retail companies about the growth potential and economic activity taking place in Prince Rupert, but Mayor Jack Mussallem said the intention isn’t to try and attract someone like a Canadian Tire or Wal-Mart.
“This was not done to entice big box stores to come to Prince Rupert or to revisit a big box mall at the old BC Hydro site. The purpose of the letters is to get smaller retailers…We’re all aware of the 30 to 40 vacancies in the downtown core, on Third Avenue and Second Avenue and into Cow Bay, so this is an appropriate time to increase our appeal to retailers,” he said, noting that the expansion of Ridley Terminals and the growth of the shipping and logistics sector means more work and more people are coming to town.
“With the population increasing, the goal is getting greater attention from the retail sector. As the community grows, the retail world will see greater opportunities and that gives new and existing residents a chance to spend some discretionary money here in town.”
And while the City is hoping to attract more retail to fill the empty storefronts downtown, Mayor Mussallem also said the intention isn’t to create greater competition for existing stores and businesses.
“The business community in Prince Rupert could certainly use growth and this is one way that we can both grow and diversify,” he said.
“We’re trying to attract what we don’t already have in town. For example a letter would be sent to The Gap for children’s clothes, Roots for that type of clothing or the Shoe Warehouse so there is a greater variety of shoes in town. For example we have jewellery stores, so we’re not looking for a jewellery franchise to come to town.”
As well as rounding out the retail and business community, Mayor Mussallem said he hopes that having a wider range of goods and services will help re-establish Prince Rupert as a service centre for people in the surrounding villages, Haida Gwaii and even Ketchikan in Alaska.
For his part, Baker said he sees the key to growing the retail sector to the benefit of residents and the region as a whole is to bring in the stores that are well known to the community but are currently lacking.
“What we did is go after the small and medium businesses and really focus on brand power. I think that brand power is what will bring people to Prince Rupert…We want people from Terrace and from up the corridor coming to Prince Rupert because we have the shops that they don’t have,” he said, adding that attraction of brand name stores will also benefit the existing boutique stores.
“At the franchise trade show I attended in April, there was a very positive response to Prince Rupert with several franchises showing interest and others currently looking for investors in the region.”
With the letters sent, Baker said it is now a matter of waiting.
“Most of the letters sent were to global headquarters or to head offices in Eastern Ontario, so it will take a while for them to receive the letter,” he explained.