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NAIOP 2023 Retail Panel Highlights Changing Consumer Behavior

On May 23rd, NAIOP Edmonton hosted the 2023 Edmonton Retail Luncheon at the JW Marriott ICE District. Over 100 CRE professionals gathered to hear from experts as they delved into the current state of Edmonton’s retail market, sharing their insights about the significant changes occurring in the industry.

The panelists included:

Heather Thomson (Executive Director, Centre for Cities and Communities at the University of Alberta)

Dave Hennessey (COO, Beljan)

Ben Snider (Senior Associate, Avison Young)

Lyndsay Stelfox (Senior Experience Integration Manager, lululemon)

Alex Thomson (Vice President of Development, Cameron Development Corporation)

Heather Thomson kicked off the event with a presentation on the U of A Centre for Cities and Communities, including research on retail trends in Edmonton, and support for real estate education in Edmonton.

She also presented on the important topic of different variables that are affecting retail vacancy and what can be done to increase occupancy such as beautification, diverse retail mixes and building amenities. The lively presentation discussed how retailers are pivoting to support purpose-driven consumers, more specialized retail stores, and advancements in retail technology.

"The consumer has fundamentally changed in how they spend their time and money. We should be creating spaces to appeal to the new consumer" -Heather Thomson

Then, the panel joined in with trends they’re seeing in today’s retail environment.

Evolving Consumer Expectations

With the consumer willing to spend more on specialty goods, smaller, niche stores are seeing an increase in activity said Dave Hennessey. Many consumers are now visiting stores (to try out sizes etc) and ordering online. Brands have been challenged to provide a positive, consistent, digital, and in-person consumer experience said Lyndsay Stelfox.

Retail stores now have increased emphasis on the customer experience, “we want our spaces to be community hubs. The more time people spend there, the better” said Dave Hennessey “That’s why we look at everything from the design, to the cleanliness of the washrooms.”

“There was a time when developers would shy away from a daycare lease” added Alex Thomson. “Now we see it as key to driving repeat visitors.”

“There’s times we need to speed up the consumer experience, and times we need to slow it down” said Stelfox about the need to facilitate seamless in-store experiences with longer dwelling times and shorter checkout times.

Emerging trends in retail

With changing consumer expectations, developers and retailers have been forced to adapt. “Anticipating these changes, and offering solutions, is our job” said Alex Thomson “we can’t fear change in this industry; we have to use it as an opportunity for improvement and creativity.”

Alex brought up the experience of a large American pharmacy he’d met at a NAIOP conference years ago “they no longer needed their store-room space, so they converted it into FedEx kiosks. It drove traffic and revenue, and we’ve seen that concept adopted in many formats since.”

Ben Snider spoke about his admiration for Edmonton’s grit as a city and is confident that retail will continue to evolve and introduce new and exciting concepts. “When we brought Crumbl Cookies to Edmonton, they had 6.8 M followers on TikTok and 3.8 on Instagram. The day they opened; they had a line-up around the block.”

What’s next for the Retail Market?

Heather mentioned emerging retail technologies being developed in Asia that could integrate into the North American shopping experience, such as cashier-less checkouts and AI-supported shopping systems. Brands expanding into Asia will benefit from bringing back some of their innovations added Lyndsay Stelfox, who cited lululemon’s 30% YoY growth as they expand into Asia while also looking to connect even more with consumers in North America. “In Asia, we see cashiers that are streaming live on socials, becoming influencers and brand ambassadors.”

Dave ended off the panel by showcasing Beljan’s upcoming Station Park development, just off Whyte Ave and Gateway Blvd. The exciting development will use shipping containers to host micro-retail spaces and will arrive in Summer 2023.

Thanks to everyone who came out to gain valuable knowledge and understanding of the retail landscape in Edmonton and connect with fellow industry professionals.

Our next event will be our 2023 Downtown Panel on June 27th. Stay tuned for the registration announcement of this exciting breakfast!

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