Power retail: big boxes, power centres, and power nodes

Much of the growth in retail in Canada over the last 15 years has been in the form of big-box stores (Table 2). These stores are also known as "destination" retailers or "category-killers" because they offer very wide selection at a particular store, allowing customers to make comparisons between different brands of the same type of item within a single store, rather than comparison shopping among different stores in a regional shopping centre or along a commercial strip in a traditional downtown (Bodkin and Lord, 1997; ICSC, 2004).

Initially, big-box stores were built on arterial streets, or within conventional shopping centres. Power centres, which bring together several big-box stores of different kinds, are a more recent phenomenon. As the number of big-box chains and big-box stores multiplied, developers created specialized power centre locations to attract big-box stores.

Power nodes are typically located close to highway interchanges and consist of groups of big-box stores or power centres. They may also contain conventional stores and malls (Yeates, 2000). Power nodes represent the competitive advantages of clustering retail activities in a single location.

Table 2: Power retail concepts

Retail Structure

Typical Configuration

Big-Box Store

Retail outlets typically three or more times larger than other comparable stores.

The definition of big-box varies by sector and is determined by gross leasable area.

Power Centre

Three or more big-box retailers with shared parking lot and ancillary commercial

services (e.g., smaller retailers, fast-food outlets) (Hernandez et al., 2007).

Power Node

One or more power centres with additional big boxes or major malls within a one

kilometre radius, typically close to a major highway interchange.