Ottawa·Ready, Set, Shop

Ottawa consumers welcome retail boom

Less than two years after a U.S.-based travel website ranked Ottawa as among the worst-dressed cities in the world, Ottawa's retail landscape is in the middle of a major makeover.

Addition of H & M, Victoria's Secret and Target kicks off retail expansion

Ottawa's changing retail landscape: Blue markers show recent arrivals to the city, while red markers indictate stores set to open in the next few years.

Less than two years after online site MSN Travel ranked Ottawa as among the worst-dressed cities in the world, Ottawa's retail landscape is in the middle of a major makeover.

In the last year, major clothing retailers H & M and Victoria's Secret have opened in the Bayshore Shopping Centre this year, while a renovated Rideau Centre is expected to house J. Crew, Simons and Nordstrom in the next few years.

Add the addition this year of big-box retailer Target and the expected arrival of stores like Whole Foods and Sporting Life in a refurbished Lansdowne Park, and Ottawa's retail options — particularly for clothing stores — has multiplied.

Bayshore Shopping Centre president Dennis Pelletier said consumers are driving the expansion. 

"H & M was a good example of demand. They'd been asking for it. In fact there was a website dedicated to coming to Ottawa — it had 3,000 members — which I'd never seen in retail," said Pelletier.

The retail revival is long overdue, according to consumer expert Ian Lee, who said the fifth-largest city in Canada has historically had a less competitive retail market than other major cities.

"This a win-win for consumers... Less competition means higher prices less choice, more competition means more choice and lower prices," said Lee.

Ottawa fashion blogger Marilou Moles said it's about time brand name stores arrived in Ottawa, and said young professionals with disposable income will appreciate the choices. 

"They not only have disposable income to spend at higher-end stores but they're also looking for great finds, discounts, really special clearance items so for that particular reason it's great that there is diversity," said Moles.

Fellow fashion blogger Grace Odumo said she hopes the retail expansion is just the beginning.

Hundreds of people waited in line for hours for the opening of the H & M store at Bayshore Shopping Centre on Oct. 17, 2013. (CBC)

"Ottawa is always being mentioned as the one of the top median-income cities in Canada and even North America, so I don't know why we don't have individual Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel," said Odumo.

"Not that I can afford it yet, but it would be nice to get it so that eventually people can treat themselves if they want something really luxurious," she said.

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