Op-Ed

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Rideau Centre gets more upscale stores while students stay poor

Justin Dallaire | Fulcrum Contributor

Photo by Mathias MacPhee

HAVE YOU EVER been courageous enough to march into the suit store Harry Rosen at the Rideau Centre? I have. Believe me when I tell you the experience is far from enjoyable. You feel a sudden surge of confidence in those first few steps as you glance at what’s on display. Then the rug gets pulled from underneath you.

When I went looking for a suit last summer, I hadn’t intended to buy one worth my entire life’s savings. What the man at the store, who, by the way, looked old enough to be Harry Rosen himself, tried to sell me would have cost me twice that. Did I mention the suit was also 50 per cent off? It’s unfortunate for students that this kind of shopping experience will only become more common at the Rideau Centre in years to come.

The Rideau Centre is preparing to undergo a $250-million facelift over the next couple of years, and although shopaholics might be pleased, most students shouldn’t be. The shopping mall is looking to bring in some new stores, and I fear they’re not the kind students will be able to afford.

Nordstrom, an upscale American department store, will be replacing Sears as early as 2014. There’s speculation on which other stores will be officially joining the Rideau Centre, but Nordstrom is a sure bet.

According to their online catalogue, Nordstrom’s men’s jeans fall in the $200 range. It seems as if my Harry Rosen experiences are far from over. And although the store does have some more reasonably priced items, you’ll quickly notice they also sell designer handbags for $2,000. It boggles my mind to just think about it. I mean, who would pay that?

Local newspapers have covered the Nordstrom story and came up with an answer to that question: Ottawa residents, apparently. The Ottawa Citizen reported back in October 2012 that, “more than 40 per cent of Ottawa households bring home more than $100,000 annually.”

Let’s not forget that Nordstrom has undoubtedly done its own research and determined that their business plan is a profitable one. It’s almost sure to succeed financially.

Nevertheless, the decision to embrace the high-end department store ignores a large slice of the Ottawa demographic pie chart. What about the 30,000 broke-ass students who go to university not five minutes away?

Most students are not raking in enough money to buy themselves a new coat, let alone designer jeans—we already spend enough on tuition, books, and housing. When you consider the alternatives  to Nordstrom at the Rideau Centre—Le Chateau, Banana Republic, Club Monaco, Coach, even American Apparel—the future of affordable shopping looks pretty bleak.

I mostly fear that Nordstrom’s arrival in the Rideau Centre will entice other high-end stores to follow suit, especially if the move proves a success. Soon students may be forced to bus out to the nearest Walmart to put clothes on their backs.