Nearly a decade ago, RBC’s downtown fortress was situated just up from the corner of Princess and Montreal. When it relocated in the late 1990’s, no business moved in to take it’s place, leaving a huge void on the same block that houses umpteen downtown businesses, a cinema and the Grand Theatre. Fast forward to the end of January ’08, where US “all things cool” retailer, Urban Outfitters, announces that they’ve leased the space, and will open their doors this Spring. How much do we really know about this peddler of foreign merchandise, and what could its presence do to the downtown?
Urban Outfitters is the ultimate store for trendy fashion, furniture and other things you did not know you needed ranging from The Marijuana Chef’s Cookbook, to the neon-coloured plastic Buddha banks and $200 ripped denim. With over 115 locations around the world, their nearest outlet to Kingston is located on Yonge Street in Toronto, and for many Kingstonians, this is close enough. Our downtown has already been invaded by the likes of the Gap, and American Apparel, while the presence of another large foreign retailer could detract from the quaint, locally owned atmosphere of the downtown core. Regardless of the chain’s claim that they will integrate the look and feel of the store with the surrounding environment, the fact remains that Urban Outfitters could squeeze out the competition. The store has already relocated a number of pan handlers, who used to congregate under the front entranceway.
On the other hand, perhaps the store could serve to draw crowds away from the Cataraqui Town Centre, and big box outlets in the east end. This would in turn benefit other downtown retailers, who would enjoy the increased foot traffic. But getting back to merchandise, does Kingston really need an overpriced thrift store, that tries too hard with it’s ironically trendy and seemingly monotonous product line? While the average UO shopper is bound to be Liberal, it seems as though the founding father, Richard Hayne, makes financial contributions to US Republican Senator Rick Santorum. That’s not the sort of guy I want my purchases supporting, further only time will tell whether or not this mega-chain will be helpful or hurtful to the local shopping scene.