It's been a big question since the collapse of Target Canada, what will happen to all those big box sites now on the market considering the widespread understanding of the business model that bricks-and-mortar stores are becoming irrelevant with the increase in online shopping options. Combined with the recent closure of Future Shop and other large Canadian retailers, there's a considerable amount of real estate on the market, but it seems that one of the surviving retail empires just so happens to be looking to step up. Yes, Walmart is purchasing 13 former Target sites, and one of them is in Guelph.
As reported by the Canadian Press, Walmart is spending $165 million for leases and properties, as well as $185 million on renovations. In addition, they're buying a distribution centre in Corwall, ON. All told, Walmart will be adding about 2,400 new employees to their operation at the stores and another 1,000 at the distribution centre. Walmart is looking to open their new stores in time for the holidays.
Along with the former Target on Stone Road here in Guelph, Walmart is also looking to pick-up the old Targets in Bayshore Shopping Centre and Billings Bridge Plaza in Ottawa; Pen Centre in St. Catharines; Southdale Centre in Winnipeg; Candiac Power Centre in Candiac, PQ; Terrarium Shopping Centre in Pointe Claire, PQ; Galeries Chagnon in Levis, PQ; Place Fleur De Lys in Quebec City; Scottsdale Mall in Delta, BC; Coquitlam Centre in Coquitlam, BC; Surrey Place/Central City in Surrey, BC; and Haney Place Mall in Maple Ridge, BC.
So why Guelph? According to people in the know, the Guelph Walmart is successful beyond the wildest expectations of the people in charge at the head office. The store on Woodlawn Road was attracting consistent customers from the Fergus area, which prompted the construction of a Fergus-based Walmart to take some of the heat off. In spite of that, the Woodlawn Walmart remains one of the chains most profitable stores in its district, if not the most profitable.
But there's room for improvement. Walmart Central has been looking at their numbers, and they've seen that a lot of Guelph customers living in the south end of the city have been venturing to the Cambridge or Milton stores rather than driving clear across town, and Walmart wants to keep those shoppers in town. It's not an insane idea. After all, Guelph once supported three Zellers stores, and granted the changing business conditions, a growning Guelph implies that the Royal City can support at least one more Walmart.
So what's the timetable? The purchase of the properties will have to first be approved by the courts in charge of Target's liquidation, but Walmart is hoping to get renovations started in the next couple of months so they can capitalize on the busy holiday shopping season.