Fort McMurray Expands from the Heart as Peter Pond Mall Grows
NOT UNLIKE MYSELF A FEW months ago, someone moving to Fort McMurray sight-unseen might decide to pack lightly when they find Peter Pond Mall’s new store directory online. Residents can now find almost anything they might need up here. Between the recent Back to School and Holiday seasons, Peter Pond Mall has undergone a progressive and invigorating expansion, welcoming new stores like David’s Tea, Michael Hill, and Ardene’s, helping make Fort McMurray competitive for shopping with major urban centres like Vancouver and Edmonton.
After Zellers closed their doors across the country in 2013, their lease left Peter Pond Mall with eighty-five thousand square feet of space for bigger names and more diversity in the retailers. “It gave the landlords an opportunity to give the consumer more selection, a little more of something we don’t already have,” says the mall’s general manager Annie Narine.
Taking up almost half of the expansion was the new Sport Check, which opened on Black Friday. Since its opening, the mall has seen a major increase in sales. “Peter Pond Mall is one of the top 10 producing centres in Canada for sales per square foot,” says Narine.
Fort McMurray is home to many top-producing businesses. According to Narine, at Peter Pond alone, they are pleased to see that they have at least one number one in each category of business. The Children’s Place was recently the company’s number one across Canada and the US, and some of the franchises in the food court, like Edo Japan, have been holding number one for several months, even throughout the recent construction.
Another part of the mall’s transition was a change in ownership from T & T Properties to Primaris Management Inc.. Now that they are part of a larger company, Peter Pond is comparing numbers with other shopping centres across Western Canada and sometimes coming to the table with double the sales. “This entire community is an anomaly... Fort McMurray is doubling, and it’s not just Peter Pond, it’s the entire community,” says Narine.
Previously it wasn’t easy for the mall’s management to diversify the tenant mix with five, to sometimes 10-year leases, and big name banners have been reluctant in the past to come to what seemed like a small town with expensive overhead. But now that the population is over 100,000, bigger-name retailers will see the potential for success in Fort McMurray. “The more the City develops and adds new stakeholders for retail goods... the more consumers will stay in town and it will excel even more,” explains Narine.
Peter Pond’s marketing coordinator, Darla Joubert, who grew up in Fort McMurray, has seen huge changes in the community in recent years, in both the numbers and diversity of people. Known primarily as a camp community only a few years ago, she recalls, Fort McMurray is quickly becoming oriented toward young families and professionals. “Now, a lot of people are bringing their families here,” says Joubert, “and staying here.”
With some of these new tenants, the mall is beginning to reflect the larger changes in the community and bringing in new demographics of consumers. “Everywhere you go it is strollers, it is babies, it is young families... and professional guys in suits having their meals in the food court,” says Narine.
Although the management had most of their wish list met in regards to the stores they wanted, they still have their sights on a few more big names. Being part of a new, larger landlord is also providing Peter Pond with greater resources to bring in those names. This new ownership is very visionary, very energetic, and very excited to be part of the modernization of Fort McMurray, and according to Narine, the mall is right smack in the middle of it. Perhaps there will be an H&M or Guess in Fort McMurray’s future!