Marshalls store construction will end 2-year vacancy in Saint John's largest mall

Work has begun on converting 43,000 vacant square feet in Saint John's largest shopping mall into a Marshalls store that's scheduled to open in the fall of 2018.

McAllister Place owners looking to fill other holes

Marshalls is set to open a new location in McAllister Place Mall in Saint John in fall 2018. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Work has begun on converting 43,000 vacant square feet in Saint John's largest shopping mall into a Marshalls store that's scheduled to open in the fall of 2018.

"We recently started the renovation," said Tanya McCluskey-Kelly of Primaris, the company that manages McAllister Place.

"It's going to be a great addition. It's going to attract new shoppers and enhance our shoppers' experience."

Marshalls is owned by parent company TJX, which also owns TJ Maxx, Winners and HomeSense.

A spokeperson for TJX said the existing Winners on nearby Consumers Drive will remain in Saint John, even after Marshalls opens its doors.

Off-price retail growth

While TJX would not confirm any plans to open more Marshalls stores in New Brunswick, the company has been on an expansion spree in Canada since opening its first location near Toronto in 2011.

By 2016, there were 50 Marshalls across the country and the company said it planned to open 50 more.

TJX describes itself as a group of off-price retailers who aim to deliver brand names at prices that are 20 to 60 per cent lower than found at regular department stores.

For example, savings can be achieved by purchasing items that failed to sell in the regular season.

More competition

"When the designer overproduces or other stores over-buy, we swoop in," says the company's website.

Until recently, the business model was considered one of the bright lights in a highly competitive bricks-and-mortar landscape threatened by explosive demand in online purchasing.

Now some are questioning how much more it can grow, as competitors enter the field and chase similar suppliers of left-over inventories.

Nordstrom Rack entered the Canadian market Thursday with its first store near Toronto and announced plans to open another 14 Canadian locations.

McAllister Place filling holes

McCluskey-Kelly said there's been a lot of change at McAllister Place.

The space formerly occupied by Target has been redeveloped into a Good Life Fitness gym and fashion outlet H&M.
Dollarama has opened and so has Party City.

There's a new lingerie store, La Vie en Rose, said McCluskey-Kelly, and a storefront for the wireless provider Eastlink.

Owners of McAllister Place are still trying to figure out how to fill the space left by Sears, a longtime anchor of the mall. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

Still, there's no deal to fill the 132,000 square feet abandoned by Sears.

"We're brainstorming and we have some negotiations going on … but we don't have anything we can announce at the moment."

According to research gathered before the closure of Sears in Saint John, McAllister Place was under-performing compared to other large malls in Atlantic Canada.

The Retail Council of Canada's 2017 Canadian Shopping Centre Study said the top producer was the Halifax Shopping Centre, with sales of $821 per square foot.

That was followed by the Avalon Mall in St. John's ($699), Mic Mac Mall in Dartmouth ($612), Champlain Place in Dieppe ($605), Regent Mall in Fredericton ($572), and McAllister Place ($464).