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Can a grocery store work in an area with too few residents?

The current Saskatoon downtown population is 3,106, according to eHealth Saskatchewan, down from...

The current Saskatoon downtown population is 3,106, according to eHealth Saskatchewan, down from a high of 3,331 in 2020.

With this limited population base, Saskatoon has struggled to attract a downtown grocery store. The city has been without a downtown grocer since 2004.

It was early in Don Atchison’s period as mayor at the time and there was a focus on attempting to lure residents into making downtown their home. Unfortunately, Atchison and his councillors were unable to deliver any meaningful growth during their tenure.

Extra Foods on Broadway Avenue closed officially last month; the City Park Shop Easy also closed in 2015.

Ingredients for success

I’ve heard many different estimates on the required minimum population for a grocery store to be viable. Obviously that estimate will be somewhat dependent upon the footprint of the store.

I believe there are three important elements that could make or break a grocery merchant in an underpopulated district and the proposed Pitchfork Market and Kitchen for Midtown Plaza checks all three boxes.

Pitchfork Market and Kitchen already has a proven track record in our market.

The company opened in the Meadows neighbourhood, most often referred to as the home of the new Costco, in 2021.

The concept is to bring farm to table on a larger grocery scale, which is a unique concept that will draw customers from neighbouring areas.

The store carries national brands like other grocers, but its additional curated selection of local fare is what sets it apart.

Make or break components

Sufficient adjacent parking is critical for a grocery store’s success. That’s not easy to accommodate in a core area, but Midtown Plaza has that to offer.

Successful merchants from many different retail sectors have proven that customers will travel out of their area to a new store design and that an engaging shopping experience can draw customers.

If the outstanding negotiations can be successfully completed, I’m betting on this to be a win for downtown Saskatoon.

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