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The Changes in Retail Strips: Metro Toronto 1993-1996


The Changes in Retail Strips: Metro Toronto 1993-1996

By Dr. Jim Simmons and Sara Simmons

 For several years now, CSCA has been measuring the commercial activity within the retail strips of Metro Toronto.  This data has been summarized in a series of annual reports and this paper supplements the annual reports with an evaluation of the changes that have taken place in the retail strips since the first survey in 1993.  the emphasis here is on the dynamics of retail strips, as the annual survey data permit us to track change in several ways; the aggregate changes in retail strips (as an important component of commercial structure within Metro Toronto), the growth, decline or change in function of individual retail strips within the system, and the rate and kind of turnover of individual stores on these strips.

Retail strips present a kind of paradox.  Overall, they remain surprisingly healthy within Metro, surviving one of Toronto's worst recessions in recent history with continued vitality and growth.  At the same time, the rate of turnover of individual stores is very high -- from 15 to 20 per cent of stores per year on average, and up to thirty per cent for certain strips in certain years. The rapidity of turnover is not necessarily a problem, but simply a reflection of the special role of retail strips within the urban commercial structure.  Unlike the shopping centres, which are leased by large development corporations to multi-locational retail firms, stores in retail strips are largely rented to family-owned businesses, operating in a single location.  These businesses may change as rapidly as families change.  The strips also act as incubators for new enterprises -- perhaps run by new entrepreneurs.  The failure rate is high due to inexperience; or conversely, a notable success leads to relocation.  The retail strip reflects the continuous change in the commercial sector; adjusting to changes in the business itself, in the market, in the competitive environment, and in the city around it.

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