By PETER CRISCIONE
Special to Focus
Representatives of Square One shopping centre showed up at Regional Council last week to speak out against a proposed Peel-wide ban on Family Day shopping.
“This isn’t really a burning issue in the eyes of residents and businesses. I think the proposed amendment would cause unnecessary confusion and mixed messaging in the market place,” said Peter Thoma of consulting firm urbanMetrics, speaking on behalf of the Mississauga shopping mall.
“Our recommendation to Peel Council is that it upholds and maintains (the current) bylaw. It was proposed as a way to maintain and develop tourism and we believe Square One has been actively doing that.”
In 2009, Regional Council enacted a bylaw allowing Square One to operate on most statutory holidays including Family Day, but some councillors have since had a change of heart and are now prosing to withdraw Family Day from the list of exempted holidays.
Among those touting a ban is Brampton Councillor Paul Palleschi, who argued the holiday was created specifically so families could spend the day together, even those that work in retail.
A Peel-wide ban on Family Day shopping would force Square One and Mississauga’s Chinese Cultural Centre to be closed on the February holiday.
Yesterday’s public meeting gave local retailers and residents a chance to weigh in on the proposed bylaw amendment.
Square One was the only party to speak to the matter, although council did receive written submissions from residents opposed to the general notion of shopping on a holiday.
Thoma, joined by Claire Santamaria, Square One property manager, encouraged politicians to toss out the idea, citing the impact such a move would have to the mall’s bottom line, as well as ongoing efforts management has undertaken to sell the centre as a tourist destination.
Since being granted an exemption under Ontario’s Retail Business Holidays Act, Square One has operated on 13 statutory holidays, including Family Day, in 2011 and 2012.
Santamaria said the mall received 86,000 visitors on Family Day this year, a 25 per cent increase over the same day in 2011.
Citing marketing research done by an outside source, Santamaria said that figure is greater than the volume of traffic seen at other Ontario hotspots including the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the CN Tower combined.
A large portion of those visitors (33 per cent) came from outside the mall’s primary trading area, she said.
“As the largest regional shopping centre in Ontario, we believe the proposed amendment under consideration would undermine many of the positive advances that Square One has made developing and maintaining tourism in Peel, especially over the last two years,” Santamaria said.
Council this year also granted Bramalea City Centre holiday status with the exception of Family Day.
After hearing from a number of concerned retail workers speaking out against granting Bramalea City Centre holiday status, councillors decided a shopping ban on Family Day was a fair compromise.
But Thoma and Santamaria argued Square One would lose out to shopping centres in neighbouring communties that are allowed to operate on Family Day.
York Region recently granted a Markham mall holiday status.
“Do we have to do what all the other municipalities do? Can we not be different in the Region of Peel?” Palleschi asked.
“You’ve really went after everything in your report to make sure that Family Day shouldn’t impact Square One,” Palleschi said. “In your report here you almost make it seem like it is a make or break situation for Square One if they don’t open on Family Day—unbelievable.”
Council will hold a final vote at an upcoming meeting.
By PETER CRISCIONE