Granville Island driving the locals away

Monday, August 28th, 2006

Robert Forbes

Granville Island is a unique component of the Vancouver landscape.

Its success is due to the foresight of the governments and Vancouver citizens of the 1970s and a perfect location at the centre of a thriving community on the north and south sides of False Creek.

Granville Island’s continued success depends on its local customers. So it is imperative that the elements that drive customer allegiance be retained.

We are, however, dealing with a government bureaucracy. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., the Island landlord, used to have an open office where anyone could walk in to talk to the Island manager. CMHC people were freely available and enthusiastically participated in the operation.

Today there are layers of CMHC personnel running interference for the top brass. Ottawa is directing the marketing and promotion plans for the Island from afar.

Key long-time Island CMHC personnel are leaving because they are fed up with the new structure and increased influence from Ottawa.

We are seeing key long-time Island tenants leave out of frustration. They are being replaced by businesses catering to tourists rather than local customers.

The market’s prices used to be competitive. They are now so far out of line that those of us who used to shop daily at the Island market now drop by just once a week. This applies especially to vegetable and dairy products.

There is not-so-subtle pressure on all Island retail tenants to present a slicker image for the tourists, especially evident at lease renewal times.

Note that it is the local customer who keeps the market profitable. The tourists buy very little there.

The more it caters to the tourists the less likely we as customers will want to face the crush to buy our daily groceries.

Robert Forbes lives in Vancouver.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006


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