Retail giant Wal-Mart opened a 175,000-square-foot "supercentre" store in Regina on Wednesday — a big event for the city of 190,000 that's expected to impact car traffic, transit routes, shopping patterns and the retail landscape in the city.
There was an early indication of that Wednesday morning as traffic jammed the roads leading to the store in the Harbour Landing subdivision on the west side of the city.
The new store is about twice the size of the now-closed Wal-Mart at the Southland Mall, which it replaces, and will include a full-deli, a grocery store, a bakery and a Tim Horton's restaurant.
City of Regina spokesman Scott Thomas said Gordon Road — one of the main routes to the store — was experiencing three times its usual traffic flow on Wednesday.
To help ease congestion, Regina is offering a two-kilometre shuttle bus service for transit riders from the Southland mall, about two kilometres to the east.
For other retailers, the expansion means some uncertainty.
For instance, when a Wal-Mart vacated Regina's Northgate Mall several years ago (relocating to Rochdale Boulevard), the move hit retailers hard, some business owners say.
Darrell Neu, who owns a coffee shop at Northgate, said when Wal-Mart left, thousands of mall customers stopped coming.
"Wal-Mart's very good at attracting family business, which comes regularly," Neu said. "Many of the businesses rely on those visitors."
Meanwhile, there's still no word on who will fill the vacant space at the Southland Mall.
It's all an indication of the power and popularity of a Wal-Mart in cities like Regina, said marketing expert and University of Regina professor Sylvain Charlebois.
"In business, things are pretty simple these days," Charlebois said. "If you are a supplier or if you are a retailer, or whatever your business model is all about, you either decide to recognize Wal-Mart or you don't. And if you don't you are likely to fail."