How is your favorite shopping street?

After two years of the pandemic and the rise of e-commerce, Quebec’s trade arteries are holding up against the odds, a recent study shows. But the challenge remains for Sainte-Catherine Street.

Posted at 5:00 am

Andre Dubuc

Andre Dubuc
The press

In the Montreal area, the picture is brighter in the suburbs and on certain neighborhood streets.

The region’s main roads have improved in their fortunes this year compared to 2021, according to a study by the company Côté Mercier, Real Estate Council, published on Monday.

This is particularly the case in Quebec, Lévis, Saguenay and Trois-Rivières.

In this capital of Mauricie, the percentage of vacant premises has fallen from 5.7% in 2021 to 3.8% a year later.

Côté Mercier’s study measures the vitality of commercial streets by focusing on the use of commercial premises located at street level. The authors are interested in premises with their own shop window, sign and house number. From his study the buildings whose facade is condemned are excluded. Shopping centers are also excluded.

Another methodical warning, an unoccupied room can be rented out despite misleading appearances, while the opposite, an occupied room that is not rented out, remains anecdotal.

proximity to the coast

In the Montreal suburbs, street shops in Terrebonne and Repentigny are showing great vitality with less than 5% vacancy rates. The retail scene is also showing encouraging signs on the South Shore, where the vacancy rate remains around 5%.

“We’re going through a transformation,” says Christian-Pierre Côté, consultant for real estate data research and analysis at Côté Mercier. We’ve lost restaurants, but we’ve gained retailers. »

annual exercise, Study on the commercial job advertisement currently covers a limited area in western Quebec. Cities like Laval, Saint-Jérôme and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu are not included.

On the other hand, the report lists no fewer than 29 arteries on the island of Montreal. In more than 3,000 shops, the vacancy rate rose from 7.6% to 10.3% in one year.

The streets of Masson, Beaubien, Jarry, du Mont-Royal and Saint-Hubert are the winners. All have a vacancy rate of less than 8%.

“These streets lie [près] their respective customers with their share of local suppliers: florists, bakeries, fruit shops, neighborhood restaurants,” we explain in the study.

“Saint-Hubert is surprising,” said Christian-Pierre Côté, consultant for real estate data research and analysis at Côté Mercier, in an interview. She was dying a few years. The work is complete. I’ve had clients tell me they had trouble charging rents that justified the economic value of the building, but that’s how it is. The investments made there have paid off. »

Another reason to celebrate, the correction has begun for Rue Saint-Denis, which has experienced a descent into hell. The vacancy rate is around 15% but has fallen by 1.3 percentage points in 12 months.

“In the field, with my SDC colleagues [sociétés de développement commercial]we find the same conclusions as in the report,” says Billy Walsh, CEO of the Association des SDC de Montréal. But the study doesn’t tell everything, he adds. “It’s fragile. The retailers are at their wits end, they’re chasing the workforce,” he says. During the pandemic, there were relief programs and a vigorous campaign to buy local. Today, the relief programs are over and we hear less about local ones Business, he regrets Mr. Walsh wants to start a new campaign that encourages local buying.

Shame on Saint Catherine

The relaunch of the “Sainte-Cath” remains an unfinished project. Côté Mercier counted 79 vacancies from Papineau to Atwater, an availability rate of 17.3%, down from last year.

For comparison, Altus Group, which uses a different methodology, identified 18% of companies closed permanently or temporarily on Montreal’s quintessential commercial artery last May.

“When you get to Sainte-Catherine East, which is essentially the gay village, it becomes problematic,” says Mr. Côté.

There are two overlapping phenomena: vacancies in need of love stand next to new buildings for which the commercial ground floor for rent is difficult to find a buyer for.

Christian-Pierre Côté, Real Estate Data Research and Analysis Consultant at Côté Mercier

In the west, the situation is more encouraging, says Glenn Castanheira, general manager of Montreal Centre-Ville, a commercial development company covering the De Bleury to Atwater section.

“For the section from Rue De Bleury to Avenue Robert-Bourassa, for which the repair work on Rue Sainte-Catherine has just been renewed, we have already hit rock bottom for that section, he believes. It used to be a No mans land. Today it is full of small restaurants. I’m very optimistic about the future.

“As for the Metcalfe-Atwater section that will eventually be under construction, it could be difficult. As we have seen, it is very difficult to coexist with a construction site. I am very worried. »

To help inflation, Sainte-Catherine retailers are surpassing 2019 sales, Mr Castanheira said.

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