Nicole Safruk drove around the Chinook Centre parking lot for about 45 minutes before finding a spot on a February Friday night.
When she finally got inside the mall, she had to navigate through crowds of shoppers to reach the movie theatre — only to discover that the popular movie she wanted to see, playing two and a half hours after she arrived, was sold out.
“I thought this was supposed to be a recession,” the 21-year-old said. “I’ve never had to drive for so long to find a parking spot, and I come to the mall at least once a week. Where did all these people come from?”
According to figures released yesterday by Statistics Canada, retail sales in Alberta were down 6.2 per cent from November 2008 to December 2008. But representatives from local malls say attendance actually increased this January compared with the same month last year.
Chinook Centre saw a two per cent increase in mall attendance, from 1.24 million people in January 2008 to 1.27 million people in January 2009, according to Peggy Lim, marketing director at Chinook. Lim also said sales increased by one per cent.
“Even during tough economic times, people still like to go out,” Lim said.
“People just change their spending habits. Instead of traditionally taking that January cruise or vacation to somewhere warm, they’re actually spending money at home.”
Lim also attributes the increase in mall traffic to bargain hunters seeking out January sales.
On the north end of the city, Sunridge Mall has seen traffic increase by 2.3 per cent this January compared to January 2008. Connie Nesbitt, general manager of Sunridge, says preliminary sales figures show a five per cent increase.
“I think locally, we haven’t seen much of a recession impact,” Nesbitt said.
“More of the higher-end stores are not seeing as much traffic flow, but the middle-retailers haven’t seen much of a decrease.”