Retail Gap Analysis - Town of Gravenhurst

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Retail Gap Analysis

The Town's Economic Development Team completed a Retail Mix and Gap Analysis in June 2018, which will assist in forming commercial investment attraction campaigns, working towards building a full and diverse complement of retail offerings for residents and visitors.

two girls wallking downtown gravenhurst with shopping bags

This project will also assist in achieving a number of goals and objectives identified in the Town's 2015-2020 Strategic Action Plan.

Between Oct – Dec 2017, a general consumer shopping and teen shopping surveys were deployed. Just under 400 completed responses were received. Public consultation was also facilitated in early October during the Economic Development Community Update Event. The findings provide by these consultation were analysed and used to develop conclusions within the final report.


What is a Retail Gap Analysis?
While the concept may be titled "gap", it is an opportunity to identify most needed and desired future retail business opportunities and ultimately have them fill current land, building and service vacancies in the community.

A comprehensive list of current retail sector business is compiled.  Available and occupied square footage is assessed, along with employee numbers, sales, spending and consumer shed data (where people shop, in and out of Gravenhurst, and how much they are spending on specific types of items).

Various consultations with local and regional consumers and stakeholders are conducted over a period of time then the data is reviewed and compared and a final report is completed to provide a full overview of the Gap Analysis results.
Final Report and Recommendations
The Final Retail Mix & Gap Analysis Report confirms that Gravenhurst has a strong and growing brand which is fostering an emerging brewing subsector and innovative cooperative retail models. There is the availability for current and future investment prospects as well as a steady residential growth.  Below are a number of recommendations based on the research in this report, below each recommendation are a number of potential strategies:
  1. Reduce retail leakage by an average annual amount of 1.3% from the permanent population (estimated yearly economic impact increase of $1,872,048).
    1. Proactively work to attract retail noted in the opportunities section above
    2. Provide information to local retailers to allow them to strategically market and adjust their product offerings to meet what each category of spender is considering.
    3. Work with partners to create an atmosphere and program gathering spaces to attract additional shoppers to the core and to convince them to stay longer.
  2. Contribute to increase visitor spending in the region, with an anticipated average annual increase of  1.6% per year (estimated yearly economic impact increase of $6,256,000) o economic impact of $19,550,000).
    1. Development of a tourism investment action plan, in partnership with tourism stakeholders to attract new private investments.
    2. Market and package existing assets to promote Gravenhurst as the home of visitors Muskoka experience
    3. Develop new experiences with existing asset
  3. Increase the amount of total spending done in Gravenhurst by seasonal resident’s in common household products by 3% (24% to 27%) and major purchases by 1.9% (21.1% to 23%) by 2023.
    1. Work with partners to market Gravenhurst to second home owners that are already in the area through projects such as visitor information services and events
    2. Provide a comprehensive business directory for second home owners to get a good understanding of the products available in the region throughout the year.
  4. Support adjustment and redevelopment of commercial spaces to meet private sector requirements.
    1. Advocate with building owners to invest in buildings to increase the viability and visibility of their property.
    2. Advocate with large vacant commercial owners in regards to subdivision of buildings to promote the more heavily demanded 1000-2000 sq. ft. locations
    3. Take a proactive approach to long sitting vacant properties by leveraging municipal assets such as the strategic property reserve.
Investment Opportunities and Other Considerations
Accommodations And Attractions

Visitor spending in Gravenhurst accounts for nearly the same amount as the spending of our permanent population.  With that in mind a focus on visitor spending should be considered.  An evaluation of tourism assets would be beneficial to help determine the ability to increase spending.

With only two traditional hotels and a handful of scattered B&B’s, motels and a few privately owned campgrounds, Gravenhurst does not have the needed facilities to host a large event or conference (500-1000 people).  The lack of formal accommodations limits the number of visitors which can stay overnight as well as potential shoulder-season events which would provide economic spin-offs to the community.  A limited amount of roofed accommodation.

Muskoka and Gravenhurst are rich with natural beauty and landscapes, which attracts visitors from all over the world each year.  However, additional attractions could leverage the “slow” winter seasons if they are able to offer entertainment, relaxation or family fun outside of the summer months.  Such attractions would provide year round jobs for local and regional residents and provide further entertainment options for both permanent and seasonal residents.

There are numerous physical locations that these new attractions could be located however proximity to the commercial core should be considered when working attracting these types of investment.  Additional work could be completed by a sub-regional tourism or destination marketing body to further leverage some of the assets for visitors that would further encourage spending.

Experiential Retail

Everyone understands that the retails sector is undergoing a significant transition, not only locally but across the world.  Emerging trends in 2018 indicate healthy growth of approximately 3.8% in the retails sector.  Adoption of advanced technologies is providing much of this growth, however the development of experiential retail is also playing a factor in its growth. Successful retail establishments today are not only providing products and services but also “things to see and do”. Consumers are spending their money on the social or entertainment experience that these places offer. 

Remember picking (eating) fresh strawberries with your family at the local farm? Agri-Culinary and Agri-Tourism continues to grow in popularity driven by fresh, local food movements and millennials, now that they are raising families, what to pass on those simple traditions and memories to their children.  Gravenhurst has an abundance of rural land that could support small scale and artisan Agri-production and value-add retail offerings. At one time Gravenhurst had many local farms and a new movement would reconnect that history. Fresh local produce and products would further enhance and expand the iconic farmers market, provide and inspire current and new food retailers and attract foodies to Gravenhurst.

Health And Wellness

Consumers are now more than ever, conscious of what they put on and into their bodies as well as impacts to the environment. They want healthy fresh food choices, physical activities in nature, natural and ecofriendly products and places to relax and unwind.  This way of life resonates with both residents and visitors of Muskoka.  While not specifically retail, there is a need for medical services both traditional and holistic approaches to support Gravenhurst’s growing population. 

Pop-Up Shops

The Town of Gravenhurst should consider supportive policies related to Pop-Up shops, especially in the shoulder and winter seasons.  Pop-up shops are a great way for retail companies to test their products in an area without a huge upfront investment. Pop-up shops are usually set up in a conventional store front or a stand-alone kiosk/building for short periods of time, mostly as individual stores but can also be part of a collaborative grouping.  It should be noted that the recent success of the Muskoka Shipyards shows the demand for pop up locations.

Reinventing the One-Stop Shop

All though the traditional mall design is no longer popular; consumers do like options all in one convenient place. The reinvention of the one-stop shop is a collaborative shared space of many smaller businesses under one roof and they may or may not be related.  This model has proven successful in Gravenhurst already and more of these types of retail collaborations will open up the market and access to variety of products for consumers, more start-up/entrepreneurial space and opportunities to test markets and products without a large initial investment, and a lower cost of doing business for the individual business owners.

Retail Attraction Targets

Based on the date presented throughout this report below are the top 14 priority retail targets sectors broken down into high, medium and low impacts.  High impact targets will have the largest effect on all three spending categories (visitor, second home owners and permanent residents), medium impact targets will have effect on two of the spending categories and low impact categories will have effect a single category.  It should be noted that even if a sector is included as a low Impact it will have profound impact on spending in the area.

High Impact

    • Footwear
    • Women’s apparel
    • Youth’s apparel
    • Restaurant
    • Bookstore
    • Specialty Food Service
    • Entertainment

Medium Impact

    • Bulk/Discount
    • Men’s apparel
    • Fuel/Gas

Low Impact

    • Children’s apparel
    • Hobby/Art Supply
    • Home Décor/Furniture
    • Sporting Goods


Learn more about Investing in Gravenhurst as local Target Sectors.

For more information about this project please contact the Economic Development Team at 705-687-2230 or Jeff Loney, Manager of Economic Development at