McArthurGlen Outlet Mall Near Vancouver Thrives with Double-Digit Visitor Surge Amidst Growing Domestic Tourism in 2023 [Interview]

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McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Vancouver has experienced an 18 per cent increase in visitor numbers over last year (year to date), and an impressive 11 per cent visitor increase when compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Local foot traffic has remained high, with a strong 70 per cent of shoppers being local visitors, a 10 per cent increase from pre-pandemic levels. 

Robert Thurlow

Robert Thurlow, General Manager of the shopping centre, said 2023 has been a very strong year for the shopping centre. 

“Actually from a footfall and numbers point of view, what we’re looking at is we’ve been trending high double-digit growth compared to last year, 2022 .   . . Toward the end of last year, we were already achieving and we had already regained and kind of come back to pre-COVID numbers last year in 2022. It was a very successful year,” he said.

“But we were continuing to add on to that throughout this year. So we’re seeing nice double-digit increases compared even back to 2019 which was of course for anybody in the retail business that was their high water mark.”

McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.
McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.

While cross-border shopping has slowed down, McArthurGlen has seen a positive increase in domestic shoppers.

A recent report by Statistics Canada said tourism spending in Canada grew 2.6 per cent in the first quarter of this year, due to an increase of 3.5 per cent in domestic tourism spending by Canadian residents. 

The benefits of shopping and traveling close to home attracted a growing number of shoppers, making up a larger percentage of visitors than ever before.

McArthurGlen has seen strong domestic tourism from Ontario, Alberta and Quebec.

“What’s interesting is that domestic visitors is actually 15 per cent higher than it was in 2019,” said Thurlow. “We’re seeing people in really strong numbers who are coming out here who maybe would have decided to maybe do a European vacation or maybe go to the Caribbean.

McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.
McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.
McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.

“But obviously with interest rates being very high and airfare being very expensive, especially to foreign destinations, we’re seeing a lot of those people maybe change their plans and deciding well you know I don’t want to spend $10,000 going to Europe, I’ll spend $5,000 and stay in Canada.”

The shopping centre now features more than 80 designer brands, 10 cafes and restaurants, a playground, and a variety of annual family-friendly events. 

In 2022, traffic was up 29.8 per cent from 2021 and just over 30 per cent up in sales.

Caffe Artigiano at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.
Furla at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.
Interior of Furla at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.
Karl Lagerfeld at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.
Interior of Karl Lagerfeld at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.

In 2022, the centre opened seven new stores – Furla, Karl Lagerfeld, Pandora, Harry Rosen, Browns, Steve Madden and Castella Cheesecake.

The second phase of McArthurGlen was opened just a few months before the pandemic struck in March 2020.

Thurlow said a new Plenty store has opened recently at the shopping centre as well as a permanent Moose Knuckles location. Oak & Fort will be opening a new permanent location later in the year as well as the introduction of Psycho Bunny. 

McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.
Pandora at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.
Harry Rosen at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.

The current Versace space will be expanding and moving into a larger unit.

“There’s been lots happening here on the leasing front and by the time we get to year end we’ll be what I would consider to be fully let. We’ll be at 99 per cent. Really not much space left after that point. I think that speaks to what’s been going on in our market for people coming to Designer Market. We are the only Designer Outlet in the region so it sets us apart from others. And I do think we’re seeing consumers who had maybe been shopping in regular full price retail everywhere discovering us for the first time.”

McArthurGlen currently has about 325,000 square feet.

McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.
Steve Madden at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.
Plenty at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.
Interior at Plenty at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.

“We are planning a phase three. We’re working on that now . . . we do have land on the northeast corner of the property right now,” explained Thurlow in a previous Retail Insider story.

“It’s about another 65,000 square feet that will be our phase three. That will be about an additional 30 to 35 stores depending on how we carve up the space. That’s coming on the radar very quickly and I think we should have an announcement about that within the next few months about our planned timing for that phase.”

Future Versace location at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.
Current Versace location at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.
Future Oak + Fort location at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.
Current Oak + Fort location at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.
Interior of current Oak + Fort location at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.

For retailers in Canada, particularly in major cities such as Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary and others, tourism is a key part of their success.

After a couple of tough years due to COVID, the overall tourism and travel sector in Canada is slowly returning to pre-pandemic levels.

According to Statistics Canada, tourism spending in the country grew 2.6 per cent in the first quarter, due to an increase of 3.5 per cent in domestic tourism spending by Canadian residents. Tourism gross domestic product (GDP) (+2.3 per cent) and jobs attributable to tourism (+2.7 per cent) also rose in the first quarter.

McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.
Current Jimmy Choo at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.
Future Jimmy Choo location at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.

Passenger air transport (+2.9 per cent) contributed the most to the growth in tourism spending in the first quarter, followed by food and beverage (+4.7 per cent) and accommodation (+2.2 per cent) services. As a result of this continued overall growth, tourism spending rose to 86.7 per cent of its level in the fourth quarter of 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, said the federal agency.

It said tourism spending in Canada by Canadians increased 3.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2023, following a 1.3 per cent decline in the previous quarter. In the first quarter of 2023, increased spending on passenger air transport (+4.6 per cent), food and beverage (+6.1 per cent) and accommodation (+4.4 per cent) services contributed most to the rise.

But StatsCan said tourism spending by international visitors edged down 0.1% in the first quarter of 2023, after double-digit increases in each of the last three quarters of 2022. In the first quarter of 2023, declines in passenger air transport (-3.2 per cent) and accommodation services (-0.6 per cent) were mostly offset by growth in non-tourism products (+2.7 per cent), vehicle fuel (+7.5 per cent) and vehicle repairs and parts (+6.8 per cent). Overnight travel by non-residents declined 0.4 per cent, while same-day travel by non-residents increased 10.5 per cent.

Swarovski at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.
McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in July 2023. Photo: Lee Rivett.
Mario Toneguzzi
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 News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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