Fields store heading back down the highway

The Yukon's only Fields store is packing up. The long-established retail outlet, a historic Canadian chain with stores across the country, couldn't afford to keep its only Yukon location open.

The Yukon’s only Fields store is packing up.

The long-established retail outlet, a historic Canadian chain with stores across the country, couldn’t afford to keep its only Yukon location open.

“It’s disappointing,” said Terrance Kaskamin, a Fields cashier.

Kaskamin, 28, has been working at the store for more than a year. He’s worked plenty of jobs, both in and out of retail. And Fields was one of the better employers.

“They were really good to me,” he said, standing behind the store’s checkout counter.

Kaskamin is one of seven employees now looking for work.

“It’s not that hard once you put yourself out there,” he said.

Another employee was busy dismantling the store this week.

Half of the store has already been cleared out. Shelves and hinges are piled up on loading docks.

The store’s remaining inventory is being liquidated.

School supplies, baby clothing and candy were on sale with 50 to 75 per cent markdowns.

Customers were still creating a post-workhour rush on Wednesday.

The store is what’s known as an “anchor tenant” in retail parlance.

It was the main attraction to the L-shaped shopping complex near the corner of 4th Avenue and Ray Street.

The strip mall is owned by the same folks who run the Yukon Inn, which shares a parking lot with Fields and other stores.

“It’s our biggest space,” said Joe Beckett, 28, an assistant manager at the Yukon Inn.

The Fields managers recently notified the Yukon Inn they wouldn’t be renewing its lease at the end of January, said Beckett.

“They’ve always been good tenants and they gave us the appropriate notice,” he said.

Beckett believes the closing is a loss for hotel customers.

“I’ve definitely seen shopping bags going up and down the stairs,” he said.

The Yukon Inn has already been approached by several groups interested in leasing the approximately 1,000-square-metre space.

“What that materializes into, who knows?” said Beckett. “But we’re not overwhelmingly concerned about filling it.”

The Fields store attracted considerable traffic to the mall, said Nikki Netzel, the owner of Mitzi’s Closet, an animal clothing store adjacent to Fields.

“There was a lot of people who would come in for the first time after coming from Fields,” said Netzel, holding a brown puppy sweater.

“Once they came, they started coming back,” she said.

Netzel isn’t too worried about losing customer traffic.

“But it’s sad to see a local business go,” she said.

“Our transportation costs are so high and that’s why they left,” she said. “Sometimes I have to pay more for transportation than I do for buying wholesale.”

The strip mall is a mix of retail stores like Mitzi’s, Wines by Design and the Dollar Store.

But it’s also home to offices like the Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, CHON FM and the Teslin Tlingit Council.

CHON FM is rumoured to be moving out, said Netzel.

“I’d like to see some more businesses (in the mall),” she said.

A staffer at Wines by Design, who wouldn’t provide her name, wasn’t worried about losing business from the Fields closure.

“It’s probably not going to hurt business because I’m a specific destination stop,” said the woman.

Fields isn’t being straightforward about why it’s closing.

Liz Romano, an assistant district manager for Fields who’s been put in charged of closing the location, wouldn’t explain the decision.

“Basically, they had to make a choice, but you have to call Vancouver,” said Romano.

Several messages left with Fields offices Outside were not returned before press time.

Romano is in charge of 23 Fields stores across BC in regions like the Lower Mainland, the Sunshine Coast and on Vancouver Island.

This is the only location Romanos has had to close in recent times, she said.

The only other Fields stores in the North are in Hay River and Fort Smith, Northwest Territories.

Both towns have fewer than 4,000 people.

Fields is a subsidiary of the Hudson’s Bay Company, itself part of US-based InterTech.

In 2008, Hudson’s Bay president Robert Johnson told the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix the retail giant planned to expand its Field locations, increasing its presence in rural and suburban Canada.

“Fields has grown now to more than 150 stores,” Johnston told the Star-Phoenix.

“It was exclusively a Western-based chain a couple of years ago, but now we’re moving into Ontario and we plan on opening between 40 and 50 Fields stores this year,” he said.

“Our expectation is that we will be at 800 by the time we fill out the entire country.”

The Whitehorse Fields store will shut down for good on January 27.

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com