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Mall or Main Street?

It’s December. You’re in Toronto. The high for today is 5 degrees celsius. But the overnight low is expected to reach -11. Would you rather shop inside a warm mall or outside along a hip urban Main Street?

This is a question that has come up a number of times in retail real estate meetings here in Toronto and the general consensus is often that people in our climate don’t want open air malls and Main Streets. They prefer enclosed malls.

However, this is not to say that we don’t have open air malls and that we don’t have a thriving downtown, because we do.

What I am saying though is that when the pension funds sit around contemplating what retail investments to make, they’re still largely thinking enclosed shopping centers. That’s why it seems like every major mall in Toronto is going through an expansion.

But still, I wonder what the actual consumer preference is. Is it really our climate? Or have we just become accustomed to driving to the mall? Here’s a similar blog post talking about the Finnish obsession with shopping centers and malls.

Generally speaking, I don’t love malls. There’s no urban authenticity. I find it much more enjoyable shopping at one-off and independent stores. But is this just a snobby architect, planning thing? I’d love to continue the conversation on twitter.

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