Loblaws set to open in Kensington Market
Loblaws is on its way to Kensington, or, more accurately, to College St. just north of the Market. Despite a hefty dose of neighbourhood protest and general disapproval of the idea, the chain grocery store is due to arrive on the site that formerly housed the Zen Buddhist Temple as part of a 15-storey development from Tribute, which will also feature other, as yet to be disclosed retail. At an estimated 20,000 square feet, the store won't be huge by Loblaws standards, but it'll be big enough to test out concerns that big retail will have a negative impact on the Market's independent shops.
So how will Kensington fare once this major grocery store opens so close by? I'll go on the record as saying that I suspect not much will change. Yes, it's big news, and entirely understandable that neighbourhood business owners and residents show concern over the store's pending arrival, but doom and gloom narratives regarding the encroachment of chain retail in the area surrounding the Market imply that the neighbourhood's retail viability is dangerously tenuous.
I don't think that's true. Kensington Market, as whole, offers a different product than Loblaws, even as you can buy bread, meat and cheese at both. Corporations like to spend a lot on what's called brand identity, some set of characteristics that will foster customer loyalty. This, as it happens, is precisely what Kensington already has without anyone having to invent it. While the Market serves nearby residents, it's also a place that people choose to shop, and that's not going to change with the arrival of Loblaws on College.
What do you think? Will the arrival of Loblaws harm Kensington Market?