BassPro opening its first Canadian mega-store

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Jun. 17, 2003

New mall lures U.S. sport fishing mega-store

DANA FLAVELLE, TORONTO STAR BUSINESS REPORTER

It has been called a fishing and hunting enthusiast's Disney World.

Bass Pro Shops announced yesterday it's opening its first Canadian mega-store, complete with waterfalls, aquariums and museum-quality trophy fish, in a sprawling new mall on the road to cottage country.

Comparable in size to the average Canadian Wal-Mart store, the American Bass Pro Shops plans to occupy 130,000 square feet of retail space in Vaughan Mills, scheduled to open in the fall of 2004.

The mall's format — an unusual combination of high-end discount stores, large-scale specialty stores and an indoor skateboard park — aims to draw shoppers from a wider-than-average geographic region.

Located off Highway 400, just south of Paramount Canada's Wonderland, it's expected to attract 20 million shoppers and gawkers a year.

The fact that Toronto is enduring a slump in tourism, driven partly by the SARS outbreak combined with a rising dollar, doesn't worry the mall's co-developers, Ivanhoe Cambridge of Montreal and Mills Corp. of Arlington, Va.

"These projects are large enough that when we finally get them going they're not too dependent on the economy," Mills Corp. executive vice-president Terry Fitzgerald said.

It will be the first enclosed regional shopping mall built in Canada in the last 13 years. Over the past decade, power centres, made up of big-box stores connected by outdoor parking lots, took over the market.

"It's going to be unique. You won't be disappointed," said Rene Tremblay, chief executive officer of Ivanhoe Cambridge, said of the mall, which will be about the size of Yorkdale shopping centre.

"This is a historic moment for Bass. This is our first store outside the U.S. and our ninth with Mills Corp.," said Jim Hagale, Bass Pro's chief operating officer. "Ontario is an outdoor paradise, the perfect environment for Bass Pro Shops."

Ontario has 1 million licensed fishers and 400,000 licensed hunters, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Bass Pro Shops is by far the largest and most regionally significant of the major tenants the mall's developers unveiled yesterday.

The fact there weren't more was disappointing to some observers, who expected the Mills name to attract more high-end U.S. discount retailers, such as Saks Off Fifth or Nordstrom Rack, and other chains, such as Bed, Bath and Beyond, to the Canadian marketplace.

The mall will be home to the first Burlington Coat Factory in Canada. The store carries brand-name clothes, housewares and baby items, the developers said.

As well, H&M (Hennes and Mauritz), the Swedish retailer of "cheap chic," also plans to locate in Vaughan Mills, the developers said.

Other committed tenants include Tommy Hilfiger Outlet, The Children's Place Outlet, the superstore version of the Canadian Winners chain called Winners 'n' More, and two entertainment complexes, ESPN X Games Skatepark and Lucky Strikes Lanes.

The developers are jointly investing $355 million in the project, which will create 2,500 jobs during its construction and 3,500 full- and part-time retail jobs upon completion, they said during a long-awaited groundbreaking ceremony yesterday.

First announced seven years ago, Vaughan Mills has taken longer than expected to launch as some of the U.S. retailers originally committed to the project dropped out.

Tremblay said the developers are in negotiations with other prospective tenants, but he declined to name them.


However, he remained confident the project would be as successful as the 10 other malls Mills has developed in the U.S.

The largest, Sawgrass Mills in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is ranked the second biggest tourist attraction in the state, next to Disney World.
 


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