Here are a few highlights of the trends revealed by my annual survey of the street-level businesses on Bloor Street in Toronto between Spadina and Christie. (You can explore the data yourself on this page.)
Some notable changes in the composition of the businesses on the strip between 1995 and 2017:
- the percentage of businesses selling prepared food (restaurants, cafes) and personal care (hairdressers, spas, nail salons) increased substantially; the fraction of businesses selling prepared food increased from about a third to almost a half
- the percentage of businesses selling clothing and travel products (mainly travel agents) decreased substantially.
The number selling personal care items and services increased steadily from 2000 to 2013, and has leveled off since.
The number of travel-related businesses decreased a bit up to 2009, but has dropped dramatically since then. Some of these businesses have survived, but have moved from street level to the second floor. Presumably a good bit of business has moved online.
The number of clothing stores has decreased steadily, from a high of 27 in 1996 to 10 in 2017.
Businesses selling prepared food are mainly restaurants, cafes, and establishments I classify as selling "fast food". The number of restaurants has been on an upward trend (though not a steady one), while the number of cafes declined from 2004 to 2015, but has surged since then. The number of fast food outlets has been fairly steady, with a bit of a decline in recent years.
Among restaurants, the number serving Japanese food has surged, from two in 1996–1998 to 17 in 2017.
Meanwhile, Indian and Italian restaurants have disappeared.
Many restaurants do not last long. The next chart shows, for each year since 1995, the number operating in 1995 that survived until that year (the blue bars), and also the survival of the ones that opened in subsequent years. For example, of the 48 restaurants operating in 1995, 39 remained in 1996, 34 in 1997, and only 6 in 2017. Of the 10 observed in 1996, 5 survived until 1997, and none survived until 2017.
A distinctive feature of the stretch of Bloor Street between Bathurst and Christie is the large number of businesses catering to native speakers of Korean. I put a business in this category if it has significant signage in Korean. According to this criterion, the number of Korean-oriented businesses grew substantially from 1995 to 2005, and has steadily fallen since then, from a peak of 74 to 42 now.
In every year, some stores are vacant. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the number of vacancies peaked during the 2007–2008 financial crisis (although the number was high in 2006, before the crisis). Since 2014 also the number has been high. (The number for 2017 includes five spaces vacant because of the pending redevelopment of Mirvish Village, including the block occupied by Honest Ed's.)