4. RETAIL TRENDS

On the other hand it is generally felt that retailing is holding its own, and is in fact one of the strengths of the central business district. The time period for which reliable data are available is only five years, the years 1961 to 1966. In some ways this is unfortunate because they cannot give the long-term picture, although experience elsewhere reveals the long-term downward trend. On the other hand however, the five-year period can be considered very revealing, because it indicates the magnitude of the local changes quite dramatically. The figures are taken from the census reports of the Dominion Bureau of Statistics.

In the Downtown area in 1961, there were 341 retail stores of all categories. These included the Food group, the Merchandise group, the Automotive group, the Apparel and Accessories group, the Hardware and Furniture group, and Other Retail group; 341 stores altogether in 1961. In 1966 there were 319 stores. In 1961 retail stores did $181,081,100 worth of business. In 1966 they did $178,949,400 worth of business, a drop of $2,081,700 in constant 1961 dollars.

In Metropolitan Winnipeg as a whole there was also a decline in the number of retail stores over the same period. In 1961 there were 2,870 stores, and in 1966 there were 2,081, a drop of 69 stores. But these fewer stores did nearly 14% more business, the volume of sales climbing from $493,139,000 in 1961 to $561,905,900 in 1966.

Perhaps a decline of two million dollars in retail, sales in the Downtown doesn’t seem to be very serious in itself. In fact, however, it is very serious because it is an index which reveals a trend, and it is particularly significant because it refers to such a relatively short time span. However, the seriousness of this situation may be better illustrated by the fact that in 1961 the downtown retail sales were 36.7% of all retail sales in the Metropolitan area. In 1966 they were 31.8% a decline of 4.9% in the five-year period.

Of the six groups of activity which together make up the retail trade category of the Standard Industrial Classification, only two showed an increase between 1961 and 1966 in the Downtown. These were the Merchandise group, and the Apparel and Accessories group. The others all declined.

The Merchandise group contains such establishments as department stores, general stores, and similar general retail sales and merchandising outlets. At first glance, the fact that this group showed an increase (although only a modest one $602,000) over the five-year period might seem to indicate that this group is still sound in the Downtown, and the big department stores are holding their own. However, a more careful examination proves that this is not really so.

In 1961 the sales of the Merchandise group in the Downtown represented 85.7% of the sales of this group in the whole Metropolitan area. In 1966 the Downtown’s share of this business had fallen to 72.2% a decline of 13.5% in the five years.

Looking at this relationship from another angle, the increase in business of the Merchandise group in the whole of the Metropolitan area, in constant dollars for the five-year period was 19.4%; for the same period, the increase in business for this group in the Downtown was 0.5%.

It is [XMLmind] to speculate on the effect which regional shopping centres have on this retardation of the growth of the Downtown retailing business. One hears the frequent opinion that the outlying shopping centres are not reducing the sales of the Downtown retail stores, and particularly not of the larger department stores. The figures quoted above indicate quite clearly that the business of Downtown retail establishments is in fact being very seriously affected it is being severely retarded relative to the growth of retailing in the Metropolitan area as a whole, and is losing its share of that overall growth. But if one examines what is happening in the regional shopping centres, a new insight into the situation is obtained.

The Polo Park shopping centre is contained in the Dominion Bureau of Statistics census tract 29. The boundaries of this tract are Ellice Avenue on the north, Wall Street on the east, Portage Avenue on the south, and St. James Street on the west

In 1961 the total retail sales in this census tract were $25,508,600. This was only about a year after Polo Park was established and before it was covered to create the enclosed mall. By 1966 retail sales had risen to $37,695,100 in constant dollars ($41,883,400 in 1966 dollars), an increase of 47.8% During the same period, retail sales in Downtown had fallen over $2 million.

And if one looks at the Merchandise group, the group specifically containing the department stores, one finds that in 1961 this group in census tract 29 did 5.2% of the merchandise business of the whole of Metro Winnipeg. By 1966 its proportion had risen to 6.7%. The same group in the Downtown suffered a decline of 13.5% in its share of the total Metropolitan merchandise sales.

Apparel and accessory sales, the other sector of Downtown retailing which enjoyed an increase, grew by 10.6% between 1961 and 1966. During the same period however, in the Metropolitan areas as a whole, apparel and accessory sales increased by 27.7% and in census tract 29 (Polo Park) by an impressive 46.9%.

In terms of the proportion of the Metropolitan sales in this sector of retailing, the position of the Downtown fell by 7.2% during the five-year period, while census tract 29 increased by exactly 1.0%.

The information relating to retail sales is set out in Table 2.1.