The first-of-its-kind retail concept in the Alberta city is a space for makers, creators and designers to follow their dreams and bring their business to a larger audience – the one-million-square foot mall owned by Oxford Properties.
“The pandemic has created unique challenges for local business owners, but it has also created opportunities for us to look at things differently and collaborate on innovative solutions to overcoming those challenges,” said Katrina Petryshyn, owner and founder of The Makers Keep and UNITE.
“I have seen first-hand the countless benefits a collective, supportive environment can have for entrepreneurs, and I am excited to continue to expand this concept of collective retail with the launch of UNITE.”
The new concept has 85 vendors in place in about 6,700 square feet of space in a high visibility spot in the mall – the former location of Victoria’s Secret.
Petryshyn said UNITE is a collaborative effort in one showroom.
“Essentially it’s a shop-in shop and we wanted to mimic the greats like Hudson’s Bay and how they would put in stores inside their store,” she said. “So it is an incubator for small businesses looking to scale up and potentially have their own retail storefront.”
UNITE will carry a wide array of products, ranging from jewelry to clothing, giftware to food. With the capacity to house numerous vendors at any given time, brands will be able to set up their own “shop within a shop”, making their designated retail areas their own with custom signage and displays.
The new indoor hotspot will operate as a multipurpose event space, tasting bar, and marketplace, showcasing brands from the community. UNITE will be fully licensed, carrying a selection of local food and beverage, some of which will rotate monthly. As more than just a shopping destination, UNITE also plans to host a variety of different events, workshops, educational programming, and social engagements.
Kingsway opened in 1976. UNITE is located on the second level.
“The way we structured the setup is when we went on the hunt for vendors, we put together a presentation that gave them different options to get involved,” said Petryshyn. “We wanted it to be accessible to anybody. So we had three different terms. One was the one-month pop-over. We did six months and we did the full term. And for now our full term was for one year.
“We offered that to vendors along with different financial fee structures as well. Most of the vendors we currently have in there are with the six month or the full term lease. We have not that many on the one-month turnover but we are hoping to rotate vendors in and out. So the idea is that once a vendor’s completed their term we’ll bring in a new person.”
If vendors move on and want to open their own space, UNITE will give them some guidance.
The unique feature with UNITE is it has eliminated the overhead for vendors and the staffing issues. There is a central staff that works the space. They’re trained in all of the brands. A customer can shop at all of the different vendors and pay at one central cashier.
“We have a system where our vendors can log in on the back end and view their sales and their inventory so they can still be participating in real time on what they need to stock up with or what their sales are at,” said Petryshyn.
“We just do it all under one system so that there’s a lot of headache removed there for the vendors and it just makes it easier for them to participate. They don’t have to worry about having to be there all the time or worrying about a staff member calling in sick. We take on that worry for them.”
Lindsay Botha, Kingsway’s Specialty Leasing Manager, said Kingsway is dedicated to championing local entrepreneurs by providing the resources and opportunities needed for them to succeed.
“We definitely noticed over the last I think 15 to 18 months there’s been a lot more self-starter businesses in the Edmonton area – people starting their own little side hustles whether they’re full time and starting small businesses on the side. So we’ve definitely seen a change and an opportunity,” said Botha.
“We wanted a seven-day market really and a seamless experience for both retailers and shoppers alike.
“On top of the 85 vendors that it’s holding it can also accommodate a rotating brewery or distillery and an eventing space as well.”
Botha said Petryshyn has an established reputation in the local business community from her existing retail location with The Makers Keep.
“She even has a waiting list of people to get in right now,” said Botha.
“I think it’s appealing for retailers that are either online or home based or those that are just not ready to scale their business yet. They don’t need to staff their space. They have all the support they need with opening up their first bricks and mortar business. So it’s really, really easily accessible for them to transition into the bricks and mortar landscape for the first time.
“There’s always opportunity for local business. It’s always been at the forefront of our minds. Kingsway is very much about the entrepreneurial spirit. That’s always been a thing for us. It’s always going to be a thing for us.”
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