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Shopping shift: New Minas businesses moving away from mall, towards plazas

Bentley is closing its retail location at the County Fair Mall in New Minas, where many retail units are for available for lease. Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce president Colby Clarke says a shopping shift away from malls toward plazas “has caused traditional mall locations to think differently and try new and exciting things.”
Bentley is closing its retail location at the County Fair Mall in New Minas, where many retail units are for available for lease. Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce president Colby Clarke says a shopping shift away from malls toward plazas “has caused traditional mall locations to think differently and try new and exciting things.” - Sara Ericsson

NEW MINAS, N.S. – Shopping trends are shifting in New Minas as many North American shoppers gravitate from traditional malls and towards plazas, says a chamber of commerce president.

Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce president Colby Clarke says the decline in actively-leased retail spaces in the village’s County Fair Mall is part of a North America-wide trend that shows “less activity in a traditional mall setting and more activity in cluster locations, such as Silver Fox Drive in New Minas or Dartmouth Crossing.”

Bentley is closing its retail location at the mall and selling off remaining stock. Employees at the store referred questions regarding the store’s closing to the company’s head office, which did not respond to Kings County News’ requests for comment.

The mall currently has eight empty units with ‘For Lease’ signs on windows, and another four units that appear unused.

Crombie REIT public relations manager Elizabeth Engram said there’s been no uptake in leasing interest at County Fair Mall since the NSLC began selling cannabis Oct. 17.
Crombie REIT public relations manager Elizabeth Engram said there’s been no uptake in leasing interest at County Fair Mall since the NSLC began selling cannabis Oct. 17.

EB Games also closed its doors inside the mall in September – the company will retain its Commercial Street location near Wal-Mart – and the Royal Bank will close its branch once its standalone building is completed in the mall’s parking lot.

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Crombie REIT public relations manager Elizabeth Engram says the company “will not speak to specific store activities.”

She confirmed in October the mall had not experienced an “uptake in leasing interest” following Oct. 17, when the mall’s NSLC store began selling cannabis, and she said there are “a number of reasons…attracting new business to any small community can be challenging.”

Clarke, who also works as an advisor at Sunlife, says this shopping shift doesn’t mean business is out in New Minas, but rather that it “has caused traditional mall locations to think differently and try new and exciting things.”

Zellers, one of the mall’s largest retail spaces, has been vacant since 2013, when Zellers retail locations closed across Canada.
Zellers, one of the mall’s largest retail spaces, has been vacant since 2013, when Zellers retail locations closed across Canada.

“The decline in County Fair Mall tenants may look negative in the short term but will present great opportunities for redevelopment in the near future,” he says.

New Minas Village Commission chairman Dave Chaulk says despite his own dislike for plaza shopping, he recognizes the trend is gaining traction in Nova Scotia.

“These, to my way of thinking, they’re not convenient – but these plazas are popular. A lot [of the stores] that have left the mall have been a national thing in some cases,” says Chaulk.

Two such departures were Zellers in 2013 and Sears in 2016, both of which closed as part of each company’s national store closures. Both units have remained vacant since these closures.

Chaulk says stores closing at the mall may not be “cause for concern, but it’s certainly not a good thing – it’s never a good thing when businesses close.”

But he and Clarke agree this shift poses no threat to New Minas’ status as a shopping mecca.

“We’re still the shopping centre of the Annapolis Valley,” says Chaulk.

“Businesses come and go, and that’s all part of the cycle.”

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