Mall operators in Red Deer have been notified that one of their long-term clients will shut down by the end of December.
News spread earlier this week that Winnipeg based retailer, Ben Moss Jewellers, is shutting down after more than 100 years in business.
The business had grown to 54 stores across Canada, including one in each of Red Deer’s two major shopping malls.
A staff member at the Ben Moss store in Bower Place said on Tuesday that a close-out sale is on now, but she has not been told how long her store will stay open. There was no answer at the company’s corporate head office in Winnipeg.
Dan Hachey, general manager of the Parkland Mall, said Ben Moss had filed for protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, which is similar to Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States.
“They tried to restructure or sell, and from what I understand, they weren’t successful with either one of them, so they’re liquidating, which means they’re closing nationally,” Hachey said on Tuesday.
“They’ve been given until Dec. 31 to liquidate their stores. From a mall operations standpoint, they are in liquidation mode until Dec. 31.”
Ben Moss has been a tenant at Parkland Mall for many years, but Hachey was unable to say when it first opened in the mall, only that it will be missed.
“The staff have been fantastic and we feel quite sorry for them. They’ve been very loyal to their store and to the mall for all these years, so we’re sad for them. But one store doesn’t tell the story of where the company went wrong,” he said.
Ben Moss occupied high-visibility corners at both of the Red Deer sites, leaving Hachey confident that he will be able to find a new tenant to fill the void at Parkland Mall.
“The challenge everyone is having in Alberta, with the price of oil, and the challenge everyone’s having with unemployment and sales in Alberta, retailers are not rushing into the province,” he said.
Up until about a year and a half ago, when oil prices slumped, Alberta was a highly attractive location for major retailers. However, that patina has rubbed off in recent months and retailers are now finding BC and Ontario more attractive.
The opportunities now will come from investors with deep pockets who are interested in buying in while prices are depressed, including construction costs and labour availability, said Hachey.
“Oil will rebound, Alberta will rebound, and there are a lot of retailers out there who will take advantage, knowing that’s the case,” he said.
“It’s like buying stock. People buy low and take advantage when it turns around.”
Hachey said he does not anticipate that the spot will be filled by a jewellery store, since most jewellers in Canada already have a spot in Red Deer.
Negotiations are also underway with potential tenants for the space formerly occupied by Canada Safeway and still vacant since shortly after Sobeys took over the grocery company’s assets. While Safeway occupied one large space, it will be divided into two or three spaces for future tenants, said Hachey.
He does not anticipate that place will be occupied before Christmas, since any of the retailers who could take advantage of the space would be working from their 2017 budgets and will not be able to make any moves before those monies become available to them.