By TERRI SAUNDERS
GANDERS — Shoppers in the Gander area may not have to travel to St. John's in the future in order to visit one of the most well-known retail stores in the world.
Officials from the Town of Gander have confirmed meetings have been held in efforts to attract Costco, the North American big box store famous for bargains and bulk shopping, to consider setting up shop in this part of the province.
"It's very preliminary, but yes, there have been discussions," said Derm Chafe, the Town's director of economic development. "We have met with Costco. They are very limited in terms of where they put stores, and they really like bigger markets, but that being said, they are revisiting how they address smaller markets."
Last November the Town placed a survey on its Facebook page, seeking input from the public as to whether or not people would shop at Costco if one was established in Gander.
"In order to get these guys to consider a community, you have to build a business case for them," said Mr. Chafe. "That survey was a part of that."
Earlier this month the survey was once again placed on the Facebook page, although it's unclear how, or why, that happened.
"It was there originally in November," said Mr. Chafe. "Someone must have been going through the page and put it up again, but it wasn't us."
Mr. Chafe said Costco is just one business whose name gets bandied about during economic development meetings.
"We have always wanted to expand our retail sector," he said. "When the business park got launched a few years ago with Wal-Mart, that was a big step."
The potential location for Costco has also been talked about, Mr. Chafe said. While there are rules related to what types of businesses can and can't be put in place in the direct vicinity of Wal-Mart, there are other areas that might be appropriate.
"There is space in the area behind where EB Games and those other businesses are, and sort of near where Jerry's Car Sales s located," he said. "But this is very preliminary, so we're just talking about these things at this point."
Mr. Chafe said most recent meetings of the economic development committee have included some talk of how to expand the commercial footprint in town. Other companies such as the Canadian restaurant chain Swiss Chalet is a popular one as well.
But in order for companies such as them to move into Gander and set up shop, the Town has to be able to show proof the market that does exist here, which Mr. Chafe said could be understood to include customers from Central and Western Newfoundland and Labrador, would be enough to support the enterprise.
In the case of Costco, the talk is heading in the direction of perhaps establishing a retail outlet that's not quite as big as the ones in larger cities across the country.
"It could be a smaller store, or some type of new strategy, so our effort is to say, if and when the time comes that you are positioned to move into the smaller markets, we want to show you exactly what we have," Mr. Chafe said. "And, in fact, we have met with them, and they were impressed with the market we have."