Shopping Centre Landlord Primaris Launches First of its Kind Digital Marketplace: Interviews

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Primaris Management Inc., a leading innovative landlord in Canada, and Dropit Shopping, a leading multichannel digital retail platform, have launched the new digital marketplace PRIMARCHÉ.ca

The companies say this is a first-ever retail innovation which digitizes real-time store inventory within Primaris’ national shopping centre network into one marketplace, replicating the shopping experience online with one-cart checkout, and fast delivery from the shopping mall closest to the shopper’s location.

PRIMARCHÉ has rolled out across five Primaris shopping centres including Dufferin Mall (Toronto), Stone Road Mall (Guelph), Cataraqui Centre (Kingston), Orchard Park Mall (Kelowna), and Park Place Mall (Lethbridge) with additional malls to follow. 

Marco Biasiotto, Director, Retail & Digital Strategy for Primaris, said the marketplace essentially links together the retailers’ real-time inventory within the shopping centre into one ecommerce marketplace. 

“That’s really the innovation here. Our retailers can rebalance their merchandise across their network of stores close to where shoppers live rather than depend on costly warehouse space for distribution of online orders. By aggregating orders into one delivery from multiple retailers from our shopping centres we are lowering the costs of last mile delivery for our retail partners” said Biasiotto.

Marco Biasiotto

“Our shoppers, especially during this COVID environment, are looking for a seamless digital way to access the inventory within our shopping centres and be able to purchase from multiple retailers in one cart. We felt there was a tremendous opportunity to partner with our retailers and deliver this ecommerce strategy in Canada. So we’re the first landlord really to launch this initiative and what it does is it allows us to benefit from those consumers’ whose preferences are shifting towards ecommerce and it allows them to have a brick and mortar experience in a digital environment.”

He said Primaris is reaching out to its tenants to participate in the program. When they do accept to participate, we are integrating the real-time inventory into our marketplace through multiple methods including API’s while installing a device at the cash register at each store.  As a transaction takes place the retailers then find the items and prepare them for pickup by the mall staff for curbside pickup or delivery.  Retailers have the flexibility if they want to manage the inventory showing on the marketplace real time as well.  He also said that many of the retailers we are talking to are also asking if they can add devices in their stores nationally to pull inventory from every location and that is something we can deliver. We will also soon launch HandsFree shopping for our tenants.

“Based on all the inventory that’s on the site, if you’re shopping for a white T-shirt that’s available at H&M on our platform, depending on where you reside or where it’s being delivered to, it will actually search our network of stores to find the closest that offers that item,” said Biasiotto.

“So if I’m sitting in Toronto it will go to Dufferin Mall first if it has it. If not in inventory, it will go to the next shopping centre which is Stone Road Mall in Guelph, if not it will go to Cataraqui and Park Place and then Kelowna.”

Primaris is a wholly-owned subsidiary of H&R REIT. Primaris owns and manages more than 7.5 million square feet of commercial space, including 17 enclosed shopping centres located across Canada. H&R REIT is one of Canada’s largest real estate investment trusts with total assets of approximately $13.1 billion at June 30, 2021.

Dropit, founded in 2016, is a multichannel digital platform with solutions for shopping centres, retailers, and consumers throughout the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, and Belgium. Dropit’s omnichannel technology and solutions create opportunities for operational efficiency and customer convenience from fast and flexible fulfilment, cross-channel inventory visibility to streamlined shipping.

Dufferin Mall (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
Patrick Sullivan

“The global pandemic has accelerated trends in consumer behaviour that otherwise may have taken years to unfold. PRIMARCHÉ enables our shopping centres to better service the communities in which we operate and benefits our retail partners by creating efficiencies in last mile delivery,” said Patrick Sullivan, Primaris’ Chief Operating Officer.

“Dropit is proud to partner with the Primaris team to bring this Canadian-exclusive omnichannel solution to life. Primaris is a forward-thinking company with an extraordinary vision for the future of retail. Their dominant enclosed shopping centre portfolio is an ideal fit for the Dropit technology, and we are confident that the customer will be met with exceptional and seamless shopping experience,” said Stuart Ford, COO of Dropit.

Stuart Ford

PRIMARCHÉ has same-day and next-day delivery. The online collection allows customers to purchase products from different brands and stores, adding items to one cart with orders processed as a single shipment. The PRIMARCHÉ approach reduces shipping costs by shortening transit time within the Primaris portfolio of shopping centres already located in highly populated areas across Canada. This enables high-speed delivery, reducing delivery costs, and overcoming supply chain bottlenecks, last-mile challenges, and other logistical disruptions.

PRIMARCHÉ unique proposition is its ability to utilize the existing store inventory and convert the physical shelf into a distribution point for online fulfilment. As store stock can be simultaneously available for sale in the mall and online, Primaris is enhancing the sales potential of its retailers beyond traditional shopping hours.

“The plan is to continue to add more Primaris shopping centres and retailers onto the marketplace and to become a significant ecommerce destination in Canada,” said Biasiotto.

As of mid-November there were eight stores on the platform including H&M, another eight stores’ inventory soon to be uploaded, and another 30 in advanced negotiations that have indicated they would like to participate.

“Coming into the new year there’s a number of larger national and international brands that have said let us get past Christmas and then we will get into some deep conversations with you regarding this platform,” he said.

“One of the wonderful things about this program is it really supports our communities across Canada in that we have those independent retailers that are located in Kelowna or downtown Toronto at Dufferin Mall. We’ve now exposed their merchandise and their brand across the entire country to all of our customers which is a great value add for retailers that want to lease space in a Primaris mall and be on our platform.

“This allows consumers to shop 24 hours a day, seven days a week from anywhere and have it delivered or picked up curbside. We are currently delivering next day but shortly we will begin same day delivery in as short as two hours which the Amazons of the world and others can’t really facilitate because they don’t have access to the real-time inventory like we do. Amazon is a digital interface to the physical retail environment while Primaris is a physical retail company interfacing into the digital environment”

This PRIMARCHÉ video shows how this integrated technology platform solves the challenges of the last mile.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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