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Retail industry preparing for 2010 Games

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"It is a fabulous community with tremendous history and culture and heritage and it is very authentic and those are some of the assets of the community that we will be incorporating into the process."

Discussions are also continuing on the introduction of big box-stores along the highway in Squamish.

"It has been a bit controversial for some time now," said Malleau, adding that a number of retailers are interested in the area because it is underdeveloped with respect to its consumer retailer market.

"The concern is that at this point it is roughly estimated that between 50 and 75 cents of every disposable dollar in Squamish is being spent outside the community and that is the critical reason why even our downtown is not doing so well.

"Because once people learn to shop outside the community they will shop for more and more and more products, and that includes stuff that is even available in the community."

Malleau said Squamish’s strategy is to re-train those shoppers to stay in the community but they will only do so if the goods they need are available.

And, she said, it’s likely that big-box stores will bring more business to the downtown core.

"The downtown will suffer more if we don’t and the good news is that most communities who have successfully introduced retail and big box in the community have also focused concerted efforts and resources into their downtown revitalization of its core," said Malleau.

"So it needs to be a big picture strategy and a big picture solution to the whole thing and that is where we are going with this."

The conference also heard that 2004 would likely be a good year for retailers.

Despite several factors which hit the Canadian economy hard last year, ICSC chair Kathleen Nelson said she expects this year to be fairly strong as several key elements of consumer spending growth are still in place. They include growth in employment, growth in disposable personal income, low interest rates and a vigorous housing market.

"With these and other fundamental factors in place the economy remains sound enough for analysts to forecast a better performance in 2004 than in 2003," said Nelson, adding that investment in shopping centres is also expected to grow as investors are attracted to their stability and profitability.

Shoppers will enjoy more one-stop shopping at their large retailers as the trend for cross shopping continues.

More than 1,300 delegates to the conference heard that outlets such as Canadian Tire, Home Depot, and Loblaws are adding new services to their stores in order to draw new customers in or catch new business from returning shoppers.