Substantial Retail Proposed in One of Canada’s Wealthiest Regions

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Lots of affluence, not a lot of retail. The unusual situation characterizes one of Canada’s wealthiest regions, as the County of Grande Prairie creates a master-planned community to facilitate its explosive growth. The region’s prosperity makes it unique, and retailers are already clamouring to get in after the County recently hosted an economic summit to promote its various exceptional opportunities. We attended the summit to learn more about the County’s vast investment potential, as it looks to add thousands of new residents over the next several years.

We can’t think of a municipality which has gone to such lengths to attract retail investment. During the second week of June, the County of Grande Prairie’s economic summit showcased the area to potential investors, retailers, landlords, and other interested parties. We learned how a recent market gap analysis (PDF) recognized immediate retail opportunities for grocers, liquor stores, banks, coffee shops, as well as a variety of other categories. A survey determined that residents want retailers such as Ikea, Indigo Books, Shoppers Drug Mart, and Toys ‘R’ Us, and Starubucks and Tim Hortons were also high on respondents’ lists.

Image: County of Grande Prairie

Already, a number of retailers are showing interest in the area. Convenience store retailer 7-Eleven, for example, told us that they see multiple possibilities in the area. Exceptional opportunities exist for a grocery retailer, based both on current numbers as well as projected population growth. The Grande Prairie area is home to a number of large retailers typically not found in similar-sized cities. Costco, Best Buy, and Walmart do gangbuster sales in the area, and locals desire more ‘big city’ shopping opportunities at a variety of pricepoints, according to the survey.

The region’s economy is exceptional, and its unusually high incomes must be considered when examining potential retail opportunities. With a mixture of commerce, forestry, agriculture, and energy (exploration, services and production), the prosperous County of Grande Prairie’s average household income is estimated to be $109,000 annually. The region’s cost of living is lower than in many parts of Canada, resulting in exceptionally high discretionary incomes. The county boasts in excess of 85,000 residents, with a trade area in excess of 260,000 within a 200 kilometre radius. Remarkably, in 2013, the trade area’s retail spending was estimated to be an astounding $3.5 billion. Although the immediate trade area is less than 100,000 people, its high incomes warrant more retail than in similarly-sized communities.

Impressively, the relatively small County of Grande Prairie is fifth in the province for new housing starts. Economic Development Manager Christopher King said “These stats are showing we are growing strongly through what is expected to be a recession for Alberta.  During the last recession the County of Grande Prairie saw an increase in assessment of 46.8% from Dec 2007 to December of 2013.  With our diversified economy the region appears to be much more resilient to the drop in oil prices.”

County of Grande Prairie

Clairmont Heights

A proposed master-planned community provides various exceptional retail opportunities. Called Clairmont Heights, the area will feature a high-density village centre with retail and residential, surrounded by lower-density residential. All are located on a gradual-slope hillside leading towards Clairmont Lake, providing water views as well as vistas towards the City of Grande Prairie and the Rocky Mountains beyond. If plans proceed as indicated, the town centre will feature a high street for local stores, with larger retail opportunities available along busy nearby Highway 2.

The planned community could eventually include an additional 6,000 residences, housing an anticipated population increase of about 15,000 people.  Surrounding the village centre will be single-detached homes, with a limited selection of estate-sized view lots at the top of Clairmont Heights. We’re told that various investment opportunities in the area are still available for those looking to develop retail, residential, restaurants and hotels.

County of Grande Prairie

The County of Grande Prairie created a website to help market its various growth opportunities. To learn more about retail and opportunities in Clairmont Heights and the County of Grande Prairie, contact Chris King, Economic Development Manager, at 780-513-3956 or by email: cking@countygp.ab.ca 

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson
Located in Toronto, Craig is the Publisher & CEO of Retail Insider Media Ltd. He is also a retail analyst and consultant, Advisor at the University of Alberta School Centre for Cities and Communities in Edmonton, former lawyer and a public speaker. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for over 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. So, instead of a park along the lake they’re planning giant parking lots? That seems very rural Alberta to me…

  2. What a dumb idea. A practical place on the north side of the lake for a park; not a parking lot. And who will have to pay for road widening and future maintenance costs? Environmental responsibility would try to reduce distances of roads, electric, water, and sewer lines; not increase them. Environmental stewardship encourages denser communities with less driving, not encourage more driving. A little thought for the future would go a long ways 20 to 40 years from now. Do they not know or not care?

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