What’s In Store for Atlantic Canada Retail in 2021

December 23, 2020 3 Minute Read

Breanne Hay

CBRE’s Halifax-based sales representative Breanne Hay specializes in retail, a sector that has experienced one of the most tumultuous and challenging years on record.

Hay shares her thoughts on what's ahead for retailers in Atlantic Canada in 2021, where the opportunities and challenges lie, and how she’s adapting her approach to deal with the ever-changing circumstances.

How do you see next year looking for the retail sector?

While there will unfortunately be additional closures, this will open up opportunities for retailers that have had challenges finding space in certain markets. I think we’ll see landlords and tenants work more closely with one another than ever before which will create some new and interesting opportunities.

Retailers are having to be very creative right now in order to stay afloat and relevant. It’s forcing people to really think outside the box and I think it’s going to result in some exciting new concepts and also some unique collaborations between different retailers. We are seeing this already through partnerships with companies that have very different products but target the same consumer. It allows them to piggyback of each other’s marketing efforts while offering a more interesting and convenient customer experience.

What will be some of the biggest challenges facing the retail market moving forward?

Short term, it will be the restrictions that are forcing businesses to close or operate at a very limited capacity. We are in one of the busiest seasons of the year for retail and many are struggling to keep the lights on. We rely very heavily on tourism in Atlantic Canada. With this summer and fall being a write-off due to restrictions on travel, many businesses were holding out on the holiday season to try and make up some of those losses.

Long term, e-commerce will present challenges to certain retailers. Consumers have been forced to grow accustomed to shopping online over the last nine months. While it’s certainly not the demise of brick-and-mortar, it’s going to be a challenge for those retailers who were behind in implementing an omni-channel and technology strategy to keep up with these changing demands.

What are you seeing out there in terms of trends that are re-shaping the retail market right now?

Buy Online and Pick-Up In Store (aka BOPUS or BOPIS) and curbside pick-up are here to stay. It’s proven to be a convenient and safe way to shop and will continue to be incorporated into many retailers’ strategies. It’s easy for the consumer as they can very often receive their goods faster than ordering direct to their home – especially in Atlantic Canada. It also increases profits for the retailers as orders can be fulfilled locally and shipping costs are minimized.

Technology; beyond just online-shopping. You are seeing technology be incorporated into a retailer’s strategy in several ways such as touchless pay options, cashierless stores, facial recognition and AI. Some retailers can now provide apps that allow you to virtually try on a piece of jewelry or see what furniture looks like in your living room.

What has been the biggest challenge for you doing business in 2020?

The uncertainty of it all. It’s been challenging for retailers to focus on new deals when there is no clear end in sight. The recent news on the vaccine roll-out has certainly alleviated some stress but there is still a lot of work to be done. Negotiating lease terms has also been challenging. There’s a lot of uncharted territory that has presented itself and we’re all trying to work through it together.

What has been the most pleasant surprise / silver lining for you?

The empathy that everyone has shown towards one another. No matter who you are, this year has presented challenges and while it’s been tough, I think it’s brought people together in a unique and unified way.

Do you have a daily routine? What does this look like and how does it help you in challenging times?

I function best when I have a routine. I had to adjust it back in March, but I’ve been disciplined in keeping it consistent. Exercise is a big part of this routine and is a way to clear my mind. I’ve even started coaching online bootcamps with my friends, something I’ll have to add to my resume! It keeps us accountable and is a fun way to keep in touch. Also, I make sure to get outside at least once a day. Sounds simple but when you are living and working under the same roof, you do have to remind yourself to take a break.

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