Dave MacLean: Telegraph-Journal

Published Thursday September 20th, 2007. Appeared on page C1


Indigo is coming

Development New bookstore described as 'Chapters on steroids'

PETER WALSH/TELEGRAPH JOURNAL

Looking at a poster of an Indigo bookstore to be opened in Saint John next spring are Drew McGowen, left, vice-president of real estate for Indigo Books & Music Inc., and East Point Shopping developer Troy Northrup. Construction is to begin immediately on the 18,000-square-foot store.

SAINT JOHN - "It's like Chapters on steroids."

That was Troy Northrup's best description of the newest retailer to announce it is setting up shop at East Point Shopping on the city's East Side.

Indigo Books & Music Inc. announced Wednesday it will open an 18,000-square-foot store on Fashion Drive, adjacent to the soon-to-be completed Hampton Inn.

Construction will begin immediately and the target date for opening is late next spring.

Indigo, Canada's largest book retailer, operates more than 240 stores from coast to coast under the names Indigo, Chapters, The World's Biggest Bookstore and Coles.

Northrup, the developer of the East Point site, was beaming during the noon-hour media conference as he introduced politicians from all three levels of government and representatives from Indigo's Toronto head office.

The size of the Indigo store will be a bit bigger than a standard National Hockey League ice surface, but company spokesman Drew McGowen said the interior won't look anything like a stereotypical big-box store.

"The design is much more vibrant, it's no longer just a regular big-box store," said McGowen, Indigo's vice-president of real estate. "It's not a cavernous open bookstore. There's a children's section, a place where children and their parents can go where they can sit on a carpeted floor and in other stores it's proven to be a place where little children want to go and be with the books. There's a section for teens where they can go off on their own and look at books that interest them, there's a business section and others. This is a huge departure from traditional wide-open stores. I think when you see it you'll be blown away."

The campaign to lure Indigo/Chapters to Saint John has been ongoing for a number of years and McGowen said the time is right because the Port City is on the cusp of major developments in the energy sector.

"Three years ago, the economy wasn't what it is today in Saint John and what's ahead is exciting," he said. "Then you have to find the right location and what we have here at East Point is a great location."

McGowen said the Saint John store will be one of only two in Canada with this particular design and decor.

"(Saint John customers) will see the most vibrant store that they've ever seen. Because there is no other of its kind - besides our other store in Montreal - but even this one is being tweaked a little bit. It's a bookstore where each of the sections is like its own little boutique.

"Our research shows that our customers spend an average of 90 minutes in our store, while they might spend just 15 minutes in a Coles bookstore. We want to make that visit comfortable and appealing."

Both McGowen and Northrup said the intense lobbying efforts of Mayor Norm McFarlane helped draw the retailer to town.

"(McFarlane) personally has played a key role in making this announcement today a reality," said Northrup.

"The mayor pretty much was the catalyst for Indigo to dig a little deeper into this market and take a good look at it. I can tell you, there is no mayor more proactive than (McFarlane)," said McGowen.

"The economy is strong, there are lots of reasons for bringing business to Saint John. And that's why we're here today."

The mayor praised Northrup for his vision and business sense and encouraged him to keep working hard to attract more quality tenants to the East Point site.

"It seems like we are here every other week for exciting announcements to grow the retail sector of our community," said McFarlane, who also spoke at a media conference two weeks ago that announced a stand-alone Starbucks location would open at East Point. "I would come here every day or every week if I could. So Troy, keep them coming."

With hints from the developer that at least one more major announcement is forthcoming in the very near future, McFarlane envisions the Port City's becoming a shopping mecca.

"The new retailers we are attracting to the city will play a key role in making Saint John the community of choice in Atlantic Canada," said the mayor. "This is a very exciting day for me for a number of reasons.

"The first reason is because if there was one retailer that I've received calls about every week from citizens since becoming mayor, it was for a Chapters, and now we're even receiving a step above with Indigo.

"The second reason is because I've had an opportunity to be directly involved in the pitch for Indigo with Troy and his team. I truly believe that we have the opportunity to become the retail shopping destination in Atlantic Canada."


PETER WALSH/TELEGRAPH JOURNAL

Mayor Norm McFarlane, left, Drew McGowen, centre, vice-president of real estate for Indigo Books & Music Inc., and East Point Shopping developer Troy Northrup give the thumbs-up sign at Wednesday's announcement that an Indigo bookstore will be opening in the city late next spring.