Retailers concerned about new big box plan

Some say one is already too many

There’s a growing concern from Leaside property owners that big business coupled with a troubled economy are forcing some merchants on Bayview to close up shop for good.

Leaside Property Owner’s Association president Brian Athey says the addition of a big box outlet mall at Laird Drive and Commercial Road is providing stiff competition.

“One of the main reasons businesses on Bayview are closing is because the city has been approving massive amounts of big box retail in the area,” said Athey. “And this type of thing will only continue.”

The existing centre includes a Home Depot, Best Buy and several fast food chains.

Athey says in the years since the centre has opened, he’s seen a Bayview Avenue hardware store close, as well as an antique shop and electronic and clothing outlets, which he believes are a direct result of the big box influence.

Others see it differently.

Pat McGoey, owner of Comprehensive Business Services, said he’s seen a tremendous amount of turnover of retail in the 18 years he’s been on Bayview. He agrees with Athey that big box outlets provide competition for smaller stores but says there are also other reasons why small business on Bayview is feeling the pinch.

“My guess is, 99 per cent of the stores closing on this street is due to weak financial results for their business,” McGoey said. “I think any big box outlets are going to have an affect on some retailers … small retailers typically can’t match their prices.”

McGoey says these retailers are already facing a high rent that comes with having a shop on Bayview.

But not everyone is feeling the pinch.

Sunnybrook Home Hardware owner Malcolm Firkser says the Home Depot on Laird has had a positive impact.

“In the first year, (Home Depot) certainly took a percentage of our business,” said Firkser, who has been in business for 22 years.

“Sales went down the following year then it came back to where it was, plus stronger.”

Regardless of the impact the existing big box centre is having on Leaside right now, it may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Currently, there’s an application before the city proposing a 16,700 square metres of big box retail at 85 Laird Dr.

Ward 26 councillor John Parker said he’s keeping an eye on the application.

“One of the things we are watching for as the application proceeds, is to see what is likely to go in there and what kind of impact will it have on Bayview,” Parker said. “I would rather not see a shopping centre there.”

For Athey, the addition of a second big box on Laird is but one of a few problems he believes are plaguing Bayview’s east side.

He said the street is starting to look downtrodden. He’s observed broken and crumbling concrete planters, some filled with garbage and weeds.

“A year ago our councillor advised us hydro cables were going to be ripped up and replaced, so I said to him, ‘This is the perfect time to begin construction, such as new trees, benches and sidewalks with interlock’ … Let’s get a standardized improvement like we see in other parts of the city,” Athey said.

Parker hopes to get these projects started this spring but said capital dollars are scarce.

Part of the problem, he says, is there’s no Business Improvement Association in the area and every attempt to establish one has failed.

“Until amalgamation, Bayview was the dividing line between two separate municipalities, that was an impediment,” Parker said. “Plus, shops feeling the pinch with high rents.

“A BIA is another expense to their budgets but they need to be convinced it’s an expense that’s worth incurring.”

About this article:

By: Matthew Cohen
Posted: Feb 16 2010 3:41 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto