The commercial development of large and medium-sized cities in Quebec is closely related to the automobile boom. This also holds true for Sherbrooke. The history of commerce is composed of four important moments which greatly changed the geography of trade and commerce.
The commercial boulevard
The commercial boulevard first appeared in the 1940s and 50s. A decade earlier, road networks had been modernized and people were now capable of travelling further to purchase their goods. Travel retail therefore appeared in the 40s and 50s in response to the punctual needs of motorists. Highly original and flashy signs and displays are common sights in order to catch the eye of passing motorists. Commercial arteries were developed in the 1960s at the entrance of cities. The policy of non-interference adopted by the government authorities heightened their development. The appearance of shopping centers in the 1980s had a direct effect these commercial arteries. Commercial wasteland appears and numerous initiatives are taken to avoid closings. Sherbrooke has two major commercial boulevards: Bourque Boulevard and King Street.
Shopping centres first appeared in the United States in 1930. This new way of shopping thoroughly pleased motorists who were always able to find available parking nearby. Over the next few decades, the influence and size of shopping centres grew constantly. Sub-regional shopping centres such as the Galeries quatre saisons appeared in the 1950s whereas regional shopping centres such as the Carrefour de l’Estrie appeared between 1970 and 1980. In 1990, the era of big box or large surface stores is one of massive expansion, creating what we know today as power centres. Neighbourhood and downtown shopping centres are immediately affected. The available space they could provide was insufficient for the retail area required by companies (supermarkets, hardware stores, etc.) which attracted business.
Lifestyle centers are the latest trend in the shopping mall or shopping centre craze. Developers create a bustling urban neighbourhood and feel which benefits retail trade. Cars are not as much a part of the picture but remain necessary to get there.
The big comeback of nearby stores
Frantic spending, commercial wasteland, the development of big-box surfaces on the outskirts of cities all incite some consumers to prefer shopping at nearby stores—stores close to where they live. Cities are becoming increasingly aware of the need to make the right choices in order to build a sustainable and balanced commercial structure.
Source : text inspired by La frénésie commerciale à Sherbrooke, Gérard Beaudet, Urban Planner, Director, Institut d’urbanisme, Université de Montréal, May 2006