This Saturday is the Santa Claus Parade, which brings families to Portage Avenue in a celebration to kickstart the holiday season. But while this tradition brings all of Winnipeg into our community for the day, it forgets the declining role in the holiday season our downtown has seen for several decades now.
Downtown Winnipeg used to be the iconic shopping hub for Christmas, with two thriving department stores, Eaton’s and The Bay, drawing people to Portage Avenue for their holiday needs. The parade still marches down that street and for the season it’s illuminated with a thematic lighting display at night, but the message seems to be lost. Eaton’s is long gone and The Bay now only uses three of its six floors, with even the basement Zeller’s set to close its doors next year. Downtown commerce has seen its holiday glamour erode in favour of suburban malls and box stores.
This declining holiday business affects our community by shutting down stores, resources, and amenities that we need on a daily basis – year-round, not just at Christmas time. Welcoming residents from across the city to shop at our neighbourhood stores benefits our local businesses, and in turn benefits us, with hours of operation catered to more than just nine-to-five office workers and healthy business competition that improves our cost and quality of living.
It should be a long-term goal of our community, working with the City and organizations such as the Downtown BIZ, to bring commerce back to downtown, with the same selection and hours of operation as the major shopping hubs where stores have moved. It’s better for our economy, better for our safety, and better for our quality of life to bring back business to where we need it: Our Downtown.