Whenever Anna Maria Afable travels from British Columbia to visit her friends in Ontario, she makes a point to stop in at a Giant Tiger store.
“We don’t have it in B.C.,” says Afable, as she browses through the fashion section at a location in Barrie, Ont, the newest of the discount chain’s 200 stores across the country. “When we see a Giant Tiger, we drop by and see the price. They have very good prices, very low, affordable for middle-class people.”
Ian Ferguson lives in Barrie and is a Giant Tiger regular. “The prices are awesome,” he enthuses.
Shoppers like Afable and Ferguson are driving a boom in discount retail. Giant Tiger — better known in rural and suburban Canada than it is in big cities — will add 10 to 15 stores this year, with more to come. Meanwhile, Costco is midway through a seven-store expansion. And the biggest of them all, Dollarama, is adding 60 to 70 new locations this year to its 1,000-store national network.
“At Christmastime you’re going to put gold balls on your Christmas tree. Does it matter if they’re Ralph Lauren, or the ones you get from Dollarama?” asks Marvin Ryder, a professor of business at Hamilton’s McMaster University. “They both look the same.”
Slowest economic recovery in history
Ryder believes that debt-burdened consumers remain nervous about the economy, and are therefore cautious about spending
“We had a recession in 2008 but we haven’t recovered from it, we’re in the longest period of Canadian economic recovery. We bounced back faster from the Great Depression than we did from that recession,” he says, adding that the slow recovery has affected people’s behaviour. “Consumers are more value conscious.”
Average Canadian incomes have barely risen over the last year, according to Statistics Canada. For workers in retail, accommodation, and food services, wages have actually fallen…