Despite another challenging year in the retail sector, overall there were positive numbers for the Halifax region when it came to business openings and closures.
Halifax ReTales, a tracker of the goings on of the Halifax Regional Municipality retail and restaurant scene, recorded 175 new openings and 68 closures in 2022.
“However, as I was compiling the data, I noticed a trend and 106 of the openings happened the first half of the year where only 69 were in the second half of the year,” said Arthur Gaudreau who operates the website.
“So overall positive numbers with 2.5 openings in 2022 to every one closure. Last year it was 2.1 openings and in 2020 it was 1.2 openings.
“The retail market itself is relatively flat but the restaurant industry or food related things are up more-so.”
And Gaudreau attributes that to the city’s population growth.
“We’re growing way faster than we had anticipated. Per capita, I think we’re growing the second fastest in the country and it’s just starting to show. The funny thing about it is the diversification of what’s happening. So probably up until say about 2010 we had an Indian grocery store that was literally called Indian Groceries. And now we probably have a store that represents every different culture and there’s probably around 18 to 20 of them. There’s population growth and in certain sectors that’s really pushing how things change. So there’s a lot of population growth here based on immigration and of course the change in the population base means these things that those people coming to Nova Scotia want.”
Gaudreau said one area of growth was the Esquire Plaza on Bedford Highway. The former motel saw many food businesses open, including Korean rice-dog shop Kon Dog. Bahamian restaurant East Coast Conch. A second location of Turkish spot EFES. The Syrian/Yemeni eatery Tanoor. A new coffee roaster, Beanville. Hanin Mart, a Korean grocer and a motorcycle accessory shop Route 66. A second location of Antionette’s Cheesecake will join in the new year, he said.
“Freehand Hospitality really helped the numbers with their continued growth at the Queen’s Marque on Lower Water Street, Downtown Halifax. The first eatery Drift opened late 2021, but this year Darya, Cafe Lunette, Bar Sofia and Peacock Wine Bar joined it. Next year will see the openings of Salt + Ash, Swanky Burger, Toridori Noodle Bar and coffee and ice cream spot The Fog Company,” he said.
“Some longtime spots like the Art Expo in Park Lane, Fairview eatery Mexico Lindo and dim sum spot Kee Heong all closed this year. Pizza, of course, was involved with the Lakeside and Fairview Alexandra’s becoming Belle Vita Pizza. Alexandra’s opened a new Fairview location a few months later, replacing Coins Pizza a crosswalk away. Pizza Pizza came to Spryfield with another coming to Sackville Drive. Sackville Drive also saw Quebec chain Pizza Salvatore, which has no connection to legendary North End pizza shop Salvatore’s. Downtown Pizza replaced Snappy Tomato in Woodside and Papa John’s opened in Woodlawn.”
Gaudreau expects continued growth in the market because of the population growth in the city. For example, two new locations for Popeye’s and a Home Sense are already in the books for early 2023. A major Asian grocery store is coming as well.
“So if you’re seeing outside companies like that and franchise models coming in you know the numbers are saying the right things to grow,” he said.
Gaudreau said the market is also seeing new construction with about eight major buildings to open in the first half of 2023 and all of them have ground floor retail.
“And those spaces are getting filled . . . It’s really kind of growing in a weird and wonderful way,” he said.
“They also changed the rules in the centre part of Halifax so that you can put retail in certain different places now. Like they’ve rezoned everything. Over the next few years we’ll see how that plays out too.”