Retailers renewed confidence in brick-and-mortar fuelling surge in commercial leases

June 9, 2022

TORONTO – When the COVID-19 pandemic struck and many abandoned in-person shopping and dining out, brick-and-mortar retail became one of the most undesirable assets in Canada.

But now, as many Canadians no longer fear congregating and vaccine passports have been dropped, real estate firms say retail and restaurant chains are scrambling to pick up space again.

“There’s been a fairly ugly period brought on by COVID, where there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding where physical retail fits within the consumer landscape, and even before COVID…because of e-commerce,” said Jonathan Gitlin, chief executive of RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust.

“Now, I can comfortably say we’re in a position where physical retail has established itself and there’s far less ambiguity.”

Fried chickenchain Popeyes has plans to open 200 more stores in Canada and the U.S. this year, burrito joint Chipotle will add 10 shops in B.C. and Ontario and BeaverTails has more than 20 in the works. Footwear brand Allbirds and fast-food spots Xero Degrees and Prince Town Pizza are all locking in Canadian locations too.

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