Changes to Red Deer’s retail over the years

For many decades, Red Deer has been the retail hub of Central Alberta

The last few months have seen the bankruptcy of Sears Canada and the closure of all of its stores, including the one in Red Deer. It was one of a number of very significant changes to the retail sector in our community and across the nation as a whole.

For many decades, Red Deer has been the retail hub of Central Alberta.

During the great boom which followed the end of the Second World War, a number of department store chains opened outlets in Red Deer, joining Eaton’s which first came to Red Deer in 1928 and had opened a large new store on Gaetz Avenue in 1939.

Among the chains which established a presence in Red Deer were Woolworth’s, Kresge’s, Saan, Merit, Stedman’s and Macleod’s. A large boost to the local retail sector came in 1961 when the Hudson’s Bay Co. built a large store on the corner of 49th St. and 49th Ave.

This new store had the added attraction of being the home to Red Deer’s first escalator.

The opening of the Parkland Mall, Red Deer’s first major indoor shopping mall, in November 1970, marked the beginnings of a significant retail presence outside the downtown core.

The major anchor tenant was Woolco, a large American-based discount department store chain established by the F.W. Woolworth Co.

Not surprisingly, in 1975, Woolworth’s closed its more traditional store on Gaetz Avenue in downtown Red Deer after 21 years of operation.

In 1978, Sears, which had previously operated a Simpsons Sears catalogue outlet in the downtown, decided to build a large department store in an expansion to the Parkland Mall.

By 1980, the once mighty Eaton’s found that it had dropped behind Sears, Bay and Woolco in its sales volumes in Red Deer. Consequently, in 1981, Eaton’s moved to a new location as an anchor tenant to the new Bower Place Shopping Centre. Another anchor tenant at the Bower Mall was the Canadian-owned Woodward’s, which opened both a department store and food floor.

With major indoor shopping malls at either end of the City, Red Deer’s downtown retail sector began to suffer. The old Eaton’s store remained vacant until the Bay bought it in 1983 and opened a Furniture Place and Home Store, in addition to its main store, one block to the east.

However, two years later, Zellers, a discount department store chain which had been purchased by the Hudson’s Bay Company, opened in the old Eaton’s location.

Meanwhile, both Merit and Macleod’s closed their Red Deer stores.

Saan Store closed its downtown location and moved to a new building south of Parkland Mall. In 1993, when Woodward’s went bankrupt, the Bay moved into its old location at Bower Mall. The old Bay location downtown then sat empty for more than four years.

A huge change to retail in Red Deer and Canada occurred in 1994 when the powerful American-owned WalMart bought most of the Woolco stores in Canada, including the one in Red Deer.

As many retail analysts predicted, WalMart enjoyed enormous success with its Canadian operations. In 2000, it opened a south-side store while keeping its north location open.

The other department store chains made many changes to meet the new stiff competition. In 1994, Kresge’s closed it popular store on Gaetz Avenue in downtown Red Deer. In 1995, Zellers moved to an addition that had been constructed onto the Bower Mall. In 1999, Field’s moved into a smaller location in downtown Red Deer.

In 1999, Eaton’s went bankrupt.

While some of the old Eaton’s stores across the country were taken over by Sears Canada, the Red Deer store was closed. Although the premises were still relatively new, they were later demolished to make way for a new and larger Zellers store.

Traditional department store chains continued to struggle.

In 2011, Target Canada began acquiring many of the Zellers stores in Canada and took over the Red Deer store in 2013. However, Target’s foray into the Canadian retail sector became an enormous disaster. Operations were shut down in 2015 including the short-lived Red Deer outlet at the Bower Mall.

Meanwhile, a number of strip malls have been built throughout Red Deer. Large big-box retail outlets have also been built, on the south side of the City and in Gasoline Alley.

Just Posted

WATCH: Ronald McDonald House Central Alberta hosts Barnyard Breakfast

FortisAlberta makes $10,000 donation to House operations

Innisfail RCMP charge woman in connection with seizure of eight dogs

Karin Adams, 46, of no fixed address faces dozen charges

WATCH: Red Deer’s Westerner Days kicks off to a smoking hot start

Thousands take in the food, entertainment, rides and more at Westerner Park

WATCH: 2018 Westerner Days Parade brings 1000s to downtown Red Deer

The parade begins five days of western fun and culture in Central Alberta

Innisfail RCMP seize eight dogs from hotel room following earlier arrest

Dogs were in distress and taken to an animal rescue organization

WATCH: Tune into What’s Up Wednesday

An overview of the week’s news in Red Deer

World’s translators push back on forcing Trump interpreter to testify

Democrats had asked translator to testify about Trump’s lengthy conversation with Putin in Helsinki

Canadian government threatens to retaliate if Trump imposes auto tariffs

U.S president had suggested that auto imports pose a national security risk to the U.S.

UPDATED: Airdrie man charged after Taser-like weapons seized

Canadian Border and Airdrie RCMP charged a man after an attempt to bring the weapons into Canada

Ontario, Saskatchewan premiers join together to oppose federal carbon plan

Saskatchewan is already involved in a court case over the tax

Sylvan Lake is moving toward a greener town

The Town of Sylvan Lake is moving forward with a contract with Fogdog Energy

Wetaskiwin RCMP investigate theft of almost $140,000 value in Millet

Wetaskiwin RCMP respond to past break and enter at a rural Wetaskiwin property

After cave rescue, soccer boys pray for protection at Thai temple

On Wednesday evening, the boys and coach were released from hospital

Gymnastics sex abuse victims join hands, accept courage award at ESPYs

The women who spoke out against the abuse by Larry Nassar stood together Wednesday night

Most Read