With the Kingston Centre resembling a big box complex, and the Frontenac Mall serving as a mecca for fitness nuts and treasure hunters, the Cataraqui Town Centre is arguably Kingston’s only remaining traditional shopping mall. Say what you will about these climate controlled shopping havens, but they serve a purpose now and again. Even so, no matter which city you go to, indoor shopping malls have the same stores, the same crowds of wandering teenagers, and they are to be avoided like the plague during the month of December.
Over the years, I have witnessed and sometimes even eagerly anticipated the changes at the Cataraqui Town Centre. Longtime residents of Kingston will recall a time when Loblaws used to be located on the south side of the mall, Sears was still a vast parking lot, and the glowing arcade offered a reprieve from back to school shopping with parental units. If memory serves me correctly, all of those aspects of the former Cat Centre vanished about 15 years ago, when a massive renovation brought forth the layout of the mall we see today. If you take a stroll with the mall walkers today, you’ll notice that the Cataraqui Town Centre is undergoing yet another transformation to improve lighting, replace railings and generally spruce up the common thoroughfare of the mall. As a result, the central balcony is clad in scaffolding, plywood and hermetically sealed tarps, all of which are estimated to be removed before the silly December shopping season arrives.
In addition to these upgrades, the mall itself is preparing to welcome yet another highly coveted clothing store, which aims to please both thrifty and style conscious consumers. Hennes & Mauritz, aka H&M is taking up residence on the western side of the Cat Centre, while it will fill what used to be multiple storefronts on both the upper and lower levels of the mall. I must admit that H&M is a store that I’ve frequented in other cities, again because it offers stylish apparel that is not clad with designer logos, at extremely affordable prices. But of course the savings for consumers come at a high cost, as H&M, similar to other major clothing labels, has been criticized for paying their Cambodian labourers unacceptable wages, and for turning a blind eye to sub-standard working conditions.
H&M’s storefront at the Cat Centre toots its own horn, tempting future customers with the slogan “Welcome to your new favourite store.” I can’t help but feel somewhat guilty about anticipating the arrival of this new clothing behemoth, which is scheduled for the 20th of October. That’s less than one month for those who are counting, and others who are gathering rotten tomatoes.
What are your thoughts about the arrival of H&M? Do you have a moral dilemma shopping here or other clothing retailers with questionable labour/employer records? If so how to you counterbalance your sentiments?