Andre Vassi’s menswear store has been open in Toronto’s underground PATH
system for 25 years and while the last 19 months have been a challenge he doesn’t anticipate it will get easier any time soon.
“The PATH system is a very unique retail environment,” he told Global News.
Vassi said sales at his store were down 95 per cent because of the COVID-19
pandemic and only recently has he seen a slight improvement. But while businesses with street-level locations are slowly rebounding, he said that hasn’t been the case for him.
“Our business a few months ago was down 95 per cent and now we are down 75 per cent,” Vassi said.
“Other retailers that have been open on the street level there are more activities, people are out there they are doing some shopping. But if you look at the PATH, it’s totally deserted.”
Commercial real-estate company Avison Young has been monitoring foot traffic in 23 major cities in North America, and in Toronto the company’s vitality index found
foot traffic in the downtown is down 84 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels.
“Downtown Toronto foot traffic remains lower than compared to pre-pandemic levels,” Ali Fieder, vice president for Avison Young’s retail services group, said in a statement, adding business will increase in the PATH system in the future.
“The PATH is a strong, viable retail environment and we expect there will be a recovery albeit a little further on the horizon, hinging on when office workers return.
“PATH retail continues to face challenges because it is directly tied to office towers above, where visitor volumes have dropped significantly during the pandemic. Many retailers are looking at strategies to tie reopening and their rent obligations to office occupancy.”
Vassi said he too is confident that business will return to the PATH system, but a solution needs to be made in the interim to help bolster those businesses.
“The PATH needs a particular solution that is different from any other retail space in the country,” he said.
“The future is going to be bright … but the question is how many of us to get to that point to get the fruit of waiting.”