Even shopping in Scarborough has a crummy image

Poor Scarborough. It seems to have a nasty reputation for just about everything. Even shopping.
Based on the way some people complain, Scarborough has no variety, you have no chance of finding a unique gift for someone and there’s only one real mall to shop in. But, if you only stick to larger malls full of big-box stores like the Scarborough Town Centre, those negative elements are all you’ll find in the area, others say.

Shopping in Scarborough is no fun if you only stick to big-box stores, shoppers say.

If people just give the smaller malls in Scarborough a chance, they’ll be surprised by the interesting things they find at stores there, says Natasha Tiessen.

Tiessen, the director of marketing at the Malvern Town Centre, doesn’t know exactly why Scarborough’s shopping has such a bad image. She says that image is unwarranted, regarding the Malvern Town Centre at least.

“I think it’s just had a bad reputation,” she says. “That’s just been something that has always been there.”

“But I think if you, in reality, look at what we do have available, there is quite a varied selection.”

She agrees there isn’t a huge number of shopping malls in Scarborough but says the variety of stores in the area makes up for it.

“If you had 10 different malls but they all had the same type of merchandise then you really couldn’t find anything different,” Tiessen says. “But, I do find that the malls that we do have and the type of retail that we do have, specifically looking at Malvern, there are quite a lot of different things that you can find here that you couldn’t find at a typical mall.”

The shopping centre on Tapscott Road has more of a community feel to it with its smaller, non-chain stores and food court. It also seems to be much less crowded and chaotic than the larger Scarborough Town Centre. There, you’ll often find yourself buffeted about by rivers of patrons, even when the holidays are months away.

Tiessen says this atmosphere is part of what should make the Malvern Town Centre so appealing to shoppers.

“Malvern Town Centre has a lot of, I don’t want to say Mom and Pop-type stores, but they are individuals,” she says. “Most of them are owner-operated and they’re not national chains so you actually do find quite a diverse type of clothing and merchandise.”

However, from her experiences at Scarborough Town Centre, which is mostly full of chain stores, Jamie

Haiden doesn’t like shopping in Scarborough at all.

“It would be good if there were other places available to shop,” says Haiden, a student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

When compared to downtown, the larger Scarborough shopping centre doesn’t offer nearly enough to customers, the former Scarborough resident adds.

“If you live downtown there are endless specialty shops and they’re easy to find,” she says. “You can just start walking and find interesting places to shop.”

“Scarborough isn’t like that.”

She says she doesn’t like how the Scarborough Town Centre is the same as almost every other mall in the city.

“There’s no boutiques or small, non-franchised stores to shop in,” Haiden says.

Haiden adds she has never shopped at Malvern Town Centre or any of Scarborough’s other smaller malls.

“I only know about the Scarborough Town Centre and it’s crazy hectic,” she says.

Haiden’s experience likely would have been different if she had shopped at the Malvern Town Centre, says Tiessen. The Malvern-area mall has many one-of-a-kind stores and clothing is one area where it excels, she adds.

“If you came into Malvern Town Centre, for instance, you would find J’Adore which has a unique collection of clothing for women,” Tiessen says. “Younger women, actually which is kind of interesting.”

Along with J’Adore, Tiessen says there are lots of other independent stores catering to men and older women like John Pomer and Society.

Shoppers can also find better prices at the Malvern Town Centre than they might find at the larger, “cookie-cutter” type malls, she adds.

“I think what sets us apart as well is not just the selection but also the pricing,” Tiessen says.
She encourages people to check often at the “store promos” section of www.malverntowncentre.com to find out more about the centre’s holiday sales and price promotions.

Nazmus Rashid agrees the smaller malls have the most variety in Scarborough.

“In the Scarborough Town Centre, it’s the same as everywhere else because all the stores in there I think maintain a standard,” he says. “But I think everywhere else [in Scarborough] you can find ethnic stuff and more diverse things around here.”

Rashid, who’s from Newmarket, says he and his family have come to Scarborough before just to shop for traditional items.

“We came down here to get things specifically for ethnic things like for South Asian stuff,” Rashid says.

“If you want to pick out something specific, sometimes Scarborough has some things that other places don’t.”

As far as Scarborough’s poor shopping reputation, that’s likely because of its customer service says Rashid, who is a student at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus.

“I’ve noticed in Scarborough, definitely, the customer service is much, much worse than everywhere else,” he says.

He says he has nothing against people in Scarborough but that customer service representatives there are often overly suspicious. Making returns to stores in Scarborough is particularly painful, Rashid adds.

“Doing a return in Scarborough is 10 times harder than doing a return anywhere else, I guarantee you,” he says. “Because automatically I think they assume you’re trying to scam them or something.”
Most of Rashid’s customer service problems were with the larger chain stores in Scarborough. It seems sticking with the smaller stores is the way to go.

Tiessen says she personally shops at all the malls she works for, including Malvern Town Centre because the stores there can’t be found anywhere else.

“You can find a lot of things at [Malvern Town Centre] that you wouldn’t typically find at another mall and so for me it’s a great selection,” she says. It’s all in one place.”