South Delta businesses struggle in wake of megamall opening

Many small business owners in South Delta say they’ve been struggling since the new megamall opened earlier this month.

Store owner says sales down 50% compared to this time last year

Several hundred people lined up for the opening of the new megamall near the BC Ferries terminal. (Farrah Merali/CBC)

Many small business owners in south Delta say they've been struggling since the new Tsawwassen Mills megamall opened earlier this month.

"Just glancing at my books, I'm noticing that we're definitely at about 50 per cent of what we were last year," said Helene Careau, who runs the Messy Dresser boutique shop and salon in Ladner Village.

"There is a lot less pedestrian traffic. There definitely seems to be an exodus of people that aren't here."

Just down the street at Fancy This Gifts, owner Joni Light says she's also seen a sharp decline in customers.

"I'm not going to say it's totally the mall because the weather has been lousy and there was a long weekend involved," she said.

"We're feeling it, though. I would say on an average morning, from 10 o'clock to one o'clock, you would easily have 30 people come through here. I think I've had five today."

New customers?

Tsawwassen Centre Mall, which is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, is a two-minute drive from Tsawwassen Mills.

The shopping plazas couldn't be more different.

Tsawwassen Mills is massive, bright and filled with international chains like Tommy Hilfiger and Saks Off 5th.

Tsawwassen Centre is tiny and consists of small, family-run businesses like a barber shop and jewelry store.

Luke Voden, whose family has run the Centre Stage gift shop at Tsawwassen Centre for decades, says being in a quiet location has its advantages.

"One customer from North Delta came out to see the new mall and saw the huge lineups, so she ended up coming here and coming to our store and spending some money here," he said.

"I just talked to a lady who said she went down there and walked around but she found it way too busy."

Light says she was offered a space at Tsawwassen Mills but she declined.

"I'm in a lease and their rent was almost three times higher than I'm paying," she said.

"Plus, a little store like this could never compete with those big box stores. We're just little, tiny, independent businesses around here. We're not corporate."