Traffic will be moving from the east end to the west end next month, when Costco opens the doors to its newest location in Galway, a new neighbourhood on the outskirts of St. John’s.
Its store on Stavanger Drive in the city’s east end will close the doors for the last time at 5:30 p.m. on June 26, with the new store opening 8 o’clock the next morning.
At 190,000 square feet, it will be the largest Costco store in the country — a testament to the growing consumer culture in the province, despite a downturn in the economy.
“We have a very loyal membership base in Newfoundland and Labrador, and a demand,” said Ron Damiani, vice-president of marketing for the multinational company. “There’s a tremendous, pent-up demand.”
People of the province have never spent more on retail items than they did in 2017 — the latest numbers available from Stats Canada — when they surpassed $9 billion for the first time ever.
Even when figures are adjusted for inflation and increases to HST, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians never spent more money on retail goods than they did in the last five years on record.
When he was interviewed by CBC News, Damiani said he didn’t have exact figures on hand to outline how this province compares to others in Canada, but said the new store is a testament to the customer base.
“When we make a massive investment of that nature, it kind of speaks for itself.”
The move means 150,000 square feet of more empty space on Stavanger Drive, in the city’s east end.
After building up in a hurry during oil boom years, big box stores have begun to bleed out of the region in recent years.
Costco sits next door to the former Target building, which has been vacant since 2015. Just down the road, there are large vacancies left by Bombay and Bowring, which closed up late last year.
The former Rona building is also still empty, after the hardware giant left in January.
Gas going west
The Costco move could also have an interesting impact on gas prices.
The wholesale giant sells gas for several cents below the average price in the city, leading to nearby stations keeping lower prices, to be closer in line with Costco.
East end gas has typically been cheaper than west end gas, but the trend could flip the other way with Costco’s move.
Damiani said the Costco gas station in Galway will open about a week before the store does. It has 24 pumps and is roughly twice the size of the current station on Stavanger Drive.
The store and gas station was expected to be open last fall, but Damiani said delays are common when building new locations.
“There’s nothing unusual that happened,” he said. “Whenever we build a new location, or in this case a relocation, there’s always a couple of things that occur during the course of it. Nothing unexpected, quite frankly.”
The store will be stocked by 300 employees from around Eastern Canada in the days and weeks before the launch. After the old store closes, merchandise will be shared around the Atlantic Canadian stores, and some food will be donated to charity.