Local is the new black

The new look of downtown retail

The look of retail and shopping malls is changing – with big stores and international chain stores taking a step back, and smaller local stores moving in where spaces may have been otherwise left vacant. This trend is being seen around the entire city, with downtown and the CORE Shopping Centre becoming a local shopping destination.

Plainsbreaker Apparel, one of the newer local additions to the CORE, ended up in the mall when the opportunity presented itself at a networking event, with a Cushman and Wakefield representative recognizing their brand from local markets and festivals.

“Originally, we had no intentions of having a store,” says Darren Garlough, Head of Retail Sales for Plainsbreaker. “We planned to build the sock side of the business and wholesale to retailers.” The company had just opened a facility in S.E. Calgary to begin local manufacturing.

After being presented with the opportunity and negotiating unique, flexible terms with the mall, the risks of being in retail felt less daunting. Open since March of this year, it turns out that a retail space was a good fit for the little sock company and the other local makers that fill their shop.

“We were able to get a ton of exposure to our brand. People recognized us from markets, but for the most part, people who came into the store were introduced to Plainsbreaker for the first time,” Garlough explains.

Cushman and Wakefield, property manager for the CORE, sees the advantages of having local and small in their space as well, with The Curated Shop and MarketSpot also among the local offerings now open in the Centre.

“People love to shop local! We all want to see our city grow and support one another,” says Caron Anderson, Acting Marketing Director for Cushman and Wakefield. “It gives the shopping centre a community feel and breaks away from having all big box stores.”

When asked about why they approached Plainsbreaker Apparel, the answer clearly points to where retail is headed, “We’re no different than other landlords and are always prospecting and looking for unique offerings.” Local is the new black, Calgarians love shopping local and it looks like the spirit of supporting our own community is here to stay.

There are a few ways The City of Calgary is hoping to make things easier for small businesses like Plainsbreaker with changes coming to the business licensing system in January 2020. Business licence fees will be reduced by 10 per cent, fees for moving businesses will be removed and the licensing process will be streamlined for businesses with low risk of fire (like retail businesses). These changes will save the business community up to $1 million/year.

Downtown is the economic and cultural heart of Calgary - a livable, thriving place for people, business, innovation and creativity. The City of Calgary is striving to support and encourage local businesses growing in our downtown. Learn more at