Calgary’s millionaires are among the country's richest, a magnet for luxury retailers

CALGARY - Record-breaking luxury home sales and a flood of high-end retailers into the city are just two indicators of Calgary’s growing wealthy population.

Recent statistics from Investor Economics Strategy Consulting show Calgary not only has more high net worth households than any other city in the Prairie provinces, but Calgary’s wealthy are actually richer, on average, than the wealthy in any other Canadian city. Looking only at households with a net worth of $500,000 or more, these wealthy Calgarians average out at a net worth of $3.3 million each. Toronto’s high net worth households average $2.2 million, while in metro Vancouver, the households that fall into that category have an average worth of $2.1 million.

Recently, the national head of a new BMO Private Banking Division — aimed exclusively at meeting the investment and estate planning needs of the ultra-rich — made a visit to Calgary to host information sessions for some of Calgary’s wealthiest.

“Clearly, there is an opportunity given the size of the market,” said Diana Reid.

Meghan Meger, Alberta Regional Director for the BMO’s Private Wealth Group division, said Calgarians in a high net worth position run the full spectrum, from professionals with young families to longtime, more senior Albertans.

“We are seeing second and third generations with even emerging fourth generation business families, from both the oilpatch and the cattle industry,” Meger said.

BMO is not the only organization taking notice of Calgary’s wealth. In the last couple of years, Chinook Centre shopping mall has welcomed a host of luxury retailers, from Louis Vuitton and Gucci to Tiffany’s, Michael Kors, and Burberry. In September, the mall announced that high-end American department store Nordstrom will be moving into space recently vacated by Sears.

Terry Napper, general manager of Chinook Centre, said there was a time when luxury retailers were only interested in the Toronto and Vancouver markets. One of the first high-end retailers to land at Chinook Centre was kitchen store Williams-Sonoma in 2007.

“It was very difficult for us to convince them that they should have a store in Calgary,” Napper said. “But we did that deal, we opened them, and they were amazed at the results. And of course, that word started to spread and our leasing team started to get inquiries from other similar retailers ... Since we’ve announced the Nordstrom deal, we’re getting inundated with these high-end luxury retailers that want to come to Calgary.”

Napper said Chinook Centre is on track to reach $700 million in annual sales by the end of 2012.

On the real estate scene, sales of luxury homes in Calgary’s resale housing market have already set a record this year. In October, Calgary hit 459 year-to-date MLS® sales of properties over $1 million, one more than the previous record set in 2007 for the entire year.

Last year, there were 446 luxury home sales in Calgary and in 2010, there were 365.

Corinne Poffenroth, a Realtor® with Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, told the Herald last week that her high-end inventory has had a record number of inquiries and interests in the last quarter.

astephenson@calgaryherald.com

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