New developments in the economy, new industries, technology and where we live are strengthening retailers, and making local shopping plazas an even more attractive investment. There has been a lot of restructuring in business over the last year. With new economic growth and a variety of new emerging trends, Canadians could find that their local shopping plazas hold some incredible real estate investment opportunities. Here are just some of the factors that could drive local retail investments even higher. Google Assistant Google's new artificial intelligence (AI) technology is reportedly so lifelike that the giant company is still queasy about how to release the latest capabilities, and what if any disclosures need to be made that we're actually interacting and conversing with robots, not humans. This technology has many applications that can benefit local retailers. An AI assistant can take restaurant reservations, answer basic customer service questions, and take orders. All of that frees up any human staff to deliver more personal service to those who want it, and can increase the net profitability of a store. These assistants can help with many of the same functions from the consumer side as well. This makes it easier for consumers to arrange a place to go, make online orders for physical pickup, and enjoy a better overall shopping experience. Multi-Billion Dollar Cannabis Industry Recreational marijuana use is expected to become legal in summer 2018, once Bill C-45 is passed. Plans for dozens of growers and hundreds of storefronts are already in the works. This is a multi-billion dollar industry. One of the biggest we'll ever see in the economy. Despite personal opinions about the industry, commercial retail owners will see an increase demand for dispensaries and distribution facilities. Expect it to drive more traffic to local shopping plazas, if you have a cannabis retailer occupying a space. If there have been any vacancies, anticipate them being quickly filled by these new retailers. Despite legalization, there can still be some challenges for those in this industry and conducting banking. Many financial institutions are wary of taking them on. The result is a lot of reinvestment into facilities. Mixed Use Real Estate Developments The development of more live, work, play mixed use properties is designed to build in more community, and in turn more strength for office, retail and residential real estate prices and rents. If you live, work and play in the same development you save money and time on travel you can spend frequenting attached retail, have more disposable cash to spend and are less likely to want to move. Gas Prices If you haven't noticed, gas prices are up again. While it is important not to be too reliant on gas prices and the gas and oil industry, it is great news for Canada for now. If you've been ducking the cold in Florida during the last month you will have noticed prices at the pump are already up by around 40 cents a gallon. They are expected to go even higher this summer. A factor which has likely influenced the recent Blackstone buying spree of industrial space in Canada. Many thousands of individuals have been lured into buying bigger, gas hungrier vehicles during the last few years of low gas prices. Now they are locked into those cars and trucks and are going to be paying the price. That could leave more consumers opting to stick closer to home to do their shopping and a stronger preference towards mixed-use shopping centers. Summary There are many new developments that are strengthening local retailers and shopping plazas. In turn having profitable, cash strong tenants with better technology occupying your mixed-use developments can be a strong ingredient for profitability for the commercial real estate investor.