It’s been a long and difficult year-and-a-half for small business owners, retailers, and commercial property managers in Toronto. Downtown has seemed like a ghost town as offices have adopted a work-from-home policy for their employees, and that’s impacted the high density of hospitality and retail businesses located in the PATH network and on the street.
The effects haven’t just been limited to downtown, as restrictions throughout the year significantly limited what retailers were allowed to do and how many (if any) customers could be inside at once. The result has been more retail closures, especially among those operating in indoor spaces like malls or on main floors and basements of office complexes. But as the city opens back up for business, how are retailers and commercial property managers planning to revitalize their properties and bring back business?
Investing in a New Look
In order to lure shoppers back, some businesses are taking the low-traffic time to renovate and invest, creating a more enticing, high-end environment while betting on an enthusiastic return to downtown.
One way they’re improving their look is with digital signage in Toronto. Digital billboards and displays can be used for wayfinding, tenant promotion, digitizing parking lots, communicating with guests, and generating ad revenues.
They can also be deployed to create high-end retail experiences through gamification and Augmented Reality. As retailers compete with e-commerce alternatives, they’re looking for new ways to transform brick-and-mortar spaces into an experience worth going out for. Digital signage has become the new indicator of a premium experience.
Creating Safe Environments
Consumers want to know that they’re in a safe environment when they go shopping. They want to know that retailers and property managers are still following public health regulations and recommendations, and in Toronto right now, that includes masking and social distancing.
Social distancing poses a unique problem for retailers. They need to find a way to create a faster flow of customers to compensate for reduced density. Typically, retailers want to maximize the amount of time customers spend time shopping. Now, however, retailers want to create displays and atmospheric elements that speed things up.
Some of the techniques that retailers are implementing to speed up efficiency include:
⦁ Changing the music played in-store to be conducive to faster movement and decision-making;
⦁ Reducing wait times by implementing digital displays that can answer customer questions;
⦁ Redesigning floor plans and aisles to reduce collisions between customers.
Not far from the downtown core, Toronto is home to a number of down-market malls that are quickly turning into development opportunities.
While the city’s voracious housing market already put the wheels in motion to convert sites like the Galleria Mall into an extensive mixed-use development, the pandemic has made everyone aware of the importance of having amenities nearby.
When you can’t dine in, you’re more likely to get takeout from nearby restaurants. If you don’t have to commute to your job, you’re less likely to shop very far from home. Mixed condo/retail developments are putting people closer to shopping, restaurants, and entertainment.
Commercial real estate in Toronto will rebound by reinvesting, doubling down on safety, and transforming itself into mixed-use developments that bring neighbourhoods and businesses closer together.
You might be interested in reading “How to Get a Private Mortgage on a Toronto property“.