Is it the last straw for downtown retail, or will the potential sale of Kingsmill's Department Store usher in a new era for London’s core?

The reaction on the street to word that Kingsmill’s was for sale struck an emotional chord for long-time customers - and that loyalty seems to have surprised the younger generation.

Most Londoners today tend to shop at suburban malls and big box stores instead of in the city’s downtown, leaving shops in the core struggling. It’s a dilemma that's gone unsolved since the mid-1980s.

At the Ivey School of Business, Marketing Professor Mark Vandenbosch, is among the many who recalls downtown's glory days.

He says we can long for the past, but the reality is downtown is outplayed by suburban retail hubs, "You can't force people to sort of start up stores…if there is business, people will come.”

For some retailers, the only solution has been to close or move out of the downtown core, but there are some businesses that have managed to get the best of both.

Nash Jewelers is an exception. It remains in the core, but also operates a high volume store in Masonville.

But Vandenbosch says downtown has yet to play its trump card, “As we see people age and want to downsize, the reality is we will need buildings that can be walked to…malls and big boxes aren’t set up for that. So, there is going to be a demand that reverses itself somewhat."

Until that day comes though, London’s downtown has to combat the opinion we've all heard before, it’s too far, there’s too much traffic, etc.

But that is what people once said about the big box stores and malls on London’s outer edges, and Vandenbosch says if the people move back downtown, so will businesses.